The Yankee bullpen is officially a mess. Where is Phil Coke when you need him? Oh, yes, he's in Detroit along with Rookie of the Year candidate, Austin Jackson for whom the Yankees got Curtis Granderson. How is that working out so far for Brian Cashman? No, not so good. There is no saying that Phil Coke would have made Saturday's bullpen meltdown any different, but it is easy to say that it couldn't have been worse.
The Yankees' line up totally destroyed every pitcher the Indians sent up there to pitch until the sixth inning. They beat up Huff right up until Alex Rodriguez drilled a line drive off of Huff's head which was an unmerciful way to end what was a bad night all around for the pitcher. Fortunately, Huff is okay it appears and his CAT scan proved negative. Huff was followed by Laffey who quickly turned the game into a laugher, right? Or at least so we thought.
But once again, C. C. Sabathia was less than ace-like and gave up five runs in six innings of work. He too took a shot to his body and that seemed to cause him to lose his composure and his grip on reality. Last year, when the Yankees rolled to 100+ wins, a lead going into the seventh inning was pretty much a lock. Coke and others would get the ball to Hughes, who is now in the rotation, and Hughes would then get the ball to Rivera. It worked like a charm. Later in the year, when Joba stopped starting, he got the seventh and that too went well.
Now, it's all a crap shoot. Marte, Mitre and Robertson have been as reliable as satellite television during a hurricane. If just one of those guys could get through the seventh, then perhaps the Yankees could get a predictable Joba in the eighth and Rivera in the ninth. But that's not what's happening and Girardi seems to be pushing every wrong button. That the Yankees could blow a 10-5 lead to the Cleveland Indians is alarming.
This post isn't absolving Joba Chamberlain of his share of Saturday's responsibility. He allowed four hits and a walk before he could get an out. But the problem started before him. Robertson, who was so good last year, has been awful. And once a pitcher, especially a relief pitcher struggles, the manager loses faith in him and gets itchy. It's hard to blame him. Robertson hit the first guy he faced, T. Crowe "Price." Then Choo just missed a homer. Crowe then stole second and Kearns promptly singled him in. Remember what the Fan said about Girardi and his itchy, lack of faith, trigger finger? Robertson got yanked. Girardi brought Sergio Mitre in for the second straight game. All of Yankee Stadium groaned.
Mitre walked the first guy he faced. Russell "I never met a team I didn't like" Branyon was sent up to hit for Shelley Duncan. Girardi popped out of the dugout and pulled Mitre (thanks for playing) and brought in Marte. Marte performed the LOOGY thing and got Branyon to fly out. Two outs and only one run has scored. Girardi then brought in Joba. Before you could blink, the game was over: Single, Walk, Double, Double, Single...game over.
The more the Fan thinks about it, the more the Fan blames Girardi for this mess. Joba was probably sitting in the bullpen when the seventh started and he's chewing on his fingernails thinking that the eighth was his. Suddenly, Girardi is playing Russian Roulette with three relievers and Joba is rushed into action. Sure, he's supposed to be a professional and be ready for anything. But Joba is just a big lug who is probably better served in finite and refined roles. There were two outs, why couldn't Marte face one more batter? Grudzielanek, the next batter, doesn't have overactive splits when it comes to facing lefties. He's a .265 batter against lefties and a .260 hitter against righties. And his OPS is much better against righties. The chances were good that Marte could have gotten him out. And then Joba would have pitched the eighth like he was expecting and the results might have been way different.
Sometimes, it must be difficult for a manager not to over think everything. You have a four run lead with two outs, why are you panicking and thinking that everything has to be a match up thing? It rushes Joba into the game, increases his workload unnecessarily and Grudzielanek would have probably not been that much of a problem.
But Joba doesn't get off the hook. With all of his tools and all of his ability, to let five straight base runners get on board before you get one stupid out is pretty pathetic. But the feeling here is that Joe Girardi needs to settle down and thus figure out how he is going to use his bullpen. His twitching and overreacting is not helping. And if Joba hadn't gotten the final out with a strike out, how long was Girardi going to let him stand out there getting his brains beat out? It would seem that after the first two or three guys in a row got on, he should have made a move. But he didn't.
Bottom line: Robertson, Joba and Girardi all contributed to the Yankees losing a game they dearly should have won. They were inching up on the Bay Rays and the snafu was a two game turnaround in the standings...pretty much akin of bogeying a hole when your competitor is in the process of getting a birdie. Not a good thing. Joba will be okay. His splits are all good. His K/9 and K/bb ratios are all good. He's had three rough outings. But keep him in a defined role and not try to get more than three outs out of him and he'll be fine.