Joba Chamberlain takes the mound for his third start under the latest version of the Joba Rules. He pitched three innings and gave up two earned runs in the last two, however in his more recent outing, he needed 59 pitches as opposed to just 35 the first time around. Since the Yanks are attempting to stretch him out for the playoffs, he figures to have a higher pitch/inning limit, something in the neighborhood of 70 pitches and 4IP, perhaps.
Joba has been headed in the wrong direction for a while now, putting up exactly zero quality starts in his last 6 and his two capped outings didn't project to end up that way either. In 26 innings over that span he's given up 23 ER, 37 H and has a K/BB of only 20/17.
Surprisingly, Jeff Niemann has the lowest ERA and best record of any Rays starter this year. He's thrown 38 fewer innings than James Sheilds and has struck out 61 fewer batters than Matt Garza, but his record is 12-5 and his ERA 3.67.
Niemann is a Houston native, but not your typical Texas fireballer. His fastball sits around 92 and he works in a curve, slider and a change. He was drafted fourth overall by the Rays in 2005 and due in part to injuries, he didn't have the meteoric rise through the minors like his opponent tonight and his teammate who started last night, David Price did. In his last two years in AAA he pitched 260 innings but had a marginal 3.78 ERA. Somehow, he's been better than that in the Big Leagues this year and even better in his last 7 starts, going 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA.
He's a big boy, at 6'9", 280 so expect that to be noted breathlessly during the broadcast tonight as if a pitcher's height is an important statistic.
The Yanks are at a season-high 40 games over .500 and have the chance to pull off the always difficult four game sweep of the Rays, thereby pushing them even further out of playoff contention. Blues legend Robert Johnson can relate to their predicament. So as the tykes from Tampa leave town for the last time this year, let's hope the Yanks bid them a fare, farewell.
When I leave this town, I'm gon' bid you fare, farewell.
And when I return again, you'll have a great long story to tell.