Yankees out-muscled behind Joba
Right-hander struggles on extra rest against Rangers
NEW YORK -- The Yankees had hoped that giving starter Joba Chamberlain eight days of rest in between starts would recharge the 23-year-old flamethrower.
Instead, Chamberlain and his blazing fastball came out sputtering, putting New York in a hole that even a four-run ninth inning couldn't solve, as the Bombers dropped Tuesday's series opener to the Rangers, 10-9, in front of a crowd of 46,511 at Yankee Stadium.
The long layoff looked to be a bad idea from the beginning, as Chamberlain struggled to get acclimated, walking the first batter he faced and laboring through a 20-pitch first inning. After allowing a pair of runs off Nelson Cruz's two-out second-inning double, he got into trouble again with two outs in the fourth.
Chamberlain issued a walk to Ivan Rodriguez for his third free pass in four innings before allowing five runs off five straight singles. The 44-pitch frame was also his final one of the evening -- his shortest stint since going 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Toronto on July 5. He surrendered a career-high seven earned runs, all of which were scored with two outs and no one on base.
"It's frustrating [to not get that third out], but at the end of the day I just didn't do what I needed to do to help this team win," Chamberlain said. "And that's the frustrating part: I just didn't have it to finish [the inning]."
While manager Joe Girardi prefaced Chamberlain's start by saying he wouldn't use the extra rest to explain an exceptionally good or bad outing, Chamberlain admitted it was difficult to establish a rhythm.
"Being put in situations in the game, you can't really dictate that other than being in the game," Chamberlain said.
In other words, the extra bullpen between starts doesn't compare.
"It is what it is," said Chamberlain, of the Yankees' intention to limit his innings in his first full season as a starter. "We've continued to work out a plan that fits us to get our work in on and off the field. It's eight days, so you can only work with what you got. We are doing the best we can."
To his credit, Chamberlain has responded well to rest in the past, going 2-0 with a 2.74 ERA in the previous four starts he made this year with six days or more in between starts. And with 126 2/3 Major League innings already under his belt, New York was hoping to the extra rest would keep the young right-hander sharp. Instead, Chamberlain's command struggles made him a bulls-eye for the Texas offense.
"We just didn't chase many pitches," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We got his pitch count up and made him work."
Even with Chamberlain's subpar outing, the Yankees nearly pulled off an upset. Down to their final three outs and with a 10-5 deficit, New York got something started against reliever Jason Grilli, as Johnny Damon led off with a single and Mark Teixeira walked in the ninth to put the first two batters on for the first time all night.
The Rangers promptly inserted Frank Francisco, who walked Alex Rodriguez to load the bases. Hideki Matsui responded with an RBI single and Jorge Posada legged out an infield hit to put the go-ahead run at the plate. Robinson Cano kept the momentum rolling with a two-run single to left field, but after Nick Swisher popped up on a bunt attempt, Melky Cabrera lined into a game-ending double play to end the Yanks' comeback hopes.
"I think it just shows the character of this team," Swisher said. "It's never die. This team is [fighting until the] last out."
But for a visibly frustrated Chamberlain, the four-run rally was just a reminder of his struggles.
"We don't have to come back and score five runs if I do my job," he said.
"I made good pitches, but like I said, it wasn't enough. It wasn't good enough, and there's really not much else you can say. It wasn't good enough."
In the first, the Yankees wasted no time getting to Rangers starter Kevin Millwood, who struggled through a 34-pitch first inning of his own. After Matsui doubled in two runs, Posada proceeded to take Millwood's 3-1 pitch for a ride, serving it up to the front row of the right-field stands for a two-run homer.
But Millwood proved to be the innings-eater, as advertised, and shut down the potent New York offense, allowing just a solo homer to Cano after the first. Cano sent the first pitch of the fourth inning just over the left-field wall, with the ball hitting the foul pole and the wall before being scooped up by a fan. Washington requested for the play to be reviewed, and the call was upheld.
New York's loss, combined with Boston's win over the White Sox, drops the Yankees' lead in the American League East to six games.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.