(Photos from AP/ESPN)
Joba Chamberlain's recent struggles continued last night in Anaheim. Staked to leads of 4-0 and 5-1, Chamberlain still couldn't make it through the fifth inning, and the pitchers who followed him didn't offer much relief either.
The Yankee offense came flying out of the gate. Derek Jeter, DHing last night, laced the first pitch of the game back up the middle, nearly decapitating Joe Saunders. Johnny Damon followed with a walk, then was replaced by Mark Teixeira on a fielder's choice that moved Jeter to third. Alex Rodriguez doubled Jeter home and Teix to third, then a base hit from Nick Swisher cleared the bases to make it 3-0.
After Joba cruised through a perfect first on just nine pitches, the Yanks added a run to their lead in the second, getting back-to-back-to-back singles from Jose Molina, Jeter, and Damon. Evil Joba took the mound for the second, needing 29 pitches to get through the inning, and giving back a run by sandwiching a walk between two singles.
Chamberlain settled down a bit for third and fourth, allowing three hits over the two innings, but needing only 14 and 16 pitches to get through the frames. A-Rod added to the Yankee lead by blasting a solo shot to center, making it 5-1. Chamberlain then hit the wall in the bottom of the inning: single, SB, foul out, single, SB, E-5, 3 run HR, double, showers. A-Rod's error certainly didn't help, but Chamberlain has no one to blame but himself. He needed 26 pitches for that whole mess, running his total for the night to 94, and continually failing to put away hitters. Two of the hits he allowed in his final inning came after he got ahead 0-2 and 1-2.
Mark Melancon, who replaced Jonathan Albaladejo on the roster prior to the game, replaced Chamberlain on the mound. With a runner on second and just one out, Melancon induced two groundouts to end the threat and leave the game tied. That was as good as it got for him on the night. In the sixth he gave up two singles and a triple to give the Angels a two run lead, and they wouldn't look back from there.
The Yankees threatened in the top of the seventh. Teix, Robinson Cano, and Melky Cabrera singled, cutting the lead to one. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui then pinch hit for Cody Ransom and Jose Molina, but the Yanks couldn't push the tying run across. The substitutions meant that Derek Jeter had to vacate the DH spot and play SS, leaving the Yankees without a DH and the pitcher batting in the ninth spot. Why Joe Girardi saw fit to sit Matsui against a lefty, when Matsui is destroying southpaws this year, is beyond me. But I digress.
Jeter, who had a 4 for 5 night at the plate, made a costly error in the bottom of the inning, dropping a one out can of corn for his fourth error of the year. After Melancon got the second out, Girardi called on Brian Bruney, one of the two remaining fresh arms in the pen. Bruney, like Chamberlain, continued to struggle. He needed just four pitches to walk the first batter he faced, then surrendered a three run homer to number nine hitter Erick Aybar, he of the .390 slugging percentage. The inning ending when Posada caught a pop up barehanded, after losing his glove while entangled with Chone Figgins.
The loss, coupled with a Red Sox win, dropped the Yanks a game back in the AL East. More concerning however are the on-going issues with Joba Chamberlain and Brian Bruney. Today's game is at a more manageable 4:10. We'll be back with a preview before then.