Sunday, July 19, 2009

Yanks Claim Another Pitchers' Duel

(Photos from AP/ESPN)

Saturday's game, which we did not recap thanks to it being too nice a weekend to be writing recaps, was a classic pitchers' duel between established aces CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

As Jay metioned in the preview, Sunday's game featured less established starters who tease with their potential. Edwin Jackson is in the midst of a breakout season at age 25 after struggling through his first six Major League seasons. Joba Chamberlain has displayed extended flashes of brilliance in his career, but has also been mired in a stretch of bad starts which has seen him labor, exit early, and seemingly deny his problems. Both pitchers would be on top of their games Sunday.

The afternoon started in typical frustrating fashion for Chamberlain. He needed 23 pitches to get through the first, allowing a walk and a single. He walked the leadoff batter in both the second and the third, then surrendered a leadoff homer in the fourth. At that point, in 3+ innings of work, Joba had issued three walks, two hits - one of them a homer, and needed 57 pitches - just 33 of them strikes - to get nine outs and fall behind 1-0. It appeared it would be another wasted start, but from there something seemed to click.

Joba reverted back to his old form. The rest of his afternoon would consist of 3.2 scoreless innings. He needed just 50 additional pitches, 35 of them strikes. He would allow just one more hit (thanks to some inventive defense by Nick Swisher), one hit batsman, no walks, and record 6 of those 11 outs via strikeout. His velocity increased to 96 and 97 MPH according to the Stadium gun.

Perhaps most telling was his work in the fifth. With the game tied at one, Chamberlain found himself in a first and third, one out jam, with the dangerous Miguel Cabrera at the plate. Chamberlain induced a pop out from Cabrera, then fanned Marcus Thames with a 95 MPH heater on a critical 3-2 pitch.

Jackson was just as good. He cruised through the early innings, needing just 40 pitches to get through the first three, facing one over the minimum. Staked to a 1-0 lead in the fourth, he got two quick outs before he gave the run back on a mammoth homerun to left by Alex Rodriguez. He followed that with consecutive walks to Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada, but worked his way out of the jam.

Jackson gave up another moon shot in the sixth, this one to Mark Teixeira. He again followed that by pitching into a jam, an A-Rod single and Posada double putting runners on second and third with two outs. Once again Jackson was able to minimize the damage, but enough damage had been done.

In position to win and having already thrown 97 pitches, I had hoped Chamberlain wouldn't return to the mound for the seventh. It isn't that I'm opposed to pushing him, but given his recent history I felt it important that he exit the game on a high note. Joba made good use of the extra rope he was given, fanning both batters he faced. With the top of the order and the dangerous Curtis Granderson due up, Joe Girardi then went to the bullpen. He was booed by the crowd, but I felt it was the right move - again, it was important that Chamberlain exit on a high note.

The move worked like a charm. Phil Coke needed just one pitch to get Granderson to loft a soft liner to short, ending the inning. The Yankees threatened again in the bottom of the inning, and again came up empty. It didn't matter; the one run lead was all they needed. Phil Hughes had a dominant eighth, recording two more Ks, and Mariano Rivera despite issuing his fourth walk of the year, pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the sweep.

Back with more in the AM.

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