Texas Rangers Batter Joba Chamberlain, Then Hold off New York Yankees’ Rally

August 26, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have been so used to buying pitching, as they did this past offseason, signing A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia to lucrative contracts, that they get paranoid when their farm system actually produces a young talent.

That talent is Joba Chamberlain, a 23-year-old Nebraska native who lights up the radar gun.

When he was called up to the major leagues in 2007, the Yankees used him cautiously in relief, then, the following year, enforced the infamous “Joba Rules”, limiting his pitch counts and innings pitched.

He spent a majority of the 2008 season as a reliever, but New York’s brass was indecisive about his future role with the team, so he managed to make 12 starts. He was dominant as both a reliever and starter, but even though he spent the entire season with the Yankees, he pitched only 100 innings and made just 42 appearances.

This season has been no different.

Entering New York’s contest with the Texas Rangers, Chamberlain had made 22 starts and averaged just over five innings per. The Yankees are so terrified that the injuries he suffered in college and in the minor leagues might flare up, that they are unwilling to let him stay in the game long enough to make a significant impact. When he does pitch on regular rest, they monitor his pitch count closely, and when they think he’s been maxed out, they give him a few extra days rest to “recuperate”.

So, it was no surprise to hear following his outing against the Seattle Mariners in which he’d thrown only 90 pitches and lasted five ineffective innings that his next start would be nine days later, giving him a ridiculous eight days off—an eternity for a pitcher.

Including the start against the Mariners, Chamberlain had made six consecutive starts on five days rest. He had a routine and was in a rhythm. New York disrupted that rhythm. This backfired against Texas, which, if their brass is smart enough (not likely), they will rethink their philosophy and stop treating Chamberlain like some fragile asset.

He was rusty, as all pitchers are when given such a substantial amount of time between starts. His fastball had its gusto, it just wasn’t located properly. A majority of the time, it wasn’t high nor low enough, which meant it was served on a platter for the offense of the Rangers. His offspeed pitches were off-kilter as well. They didn’t deceive the opposition, which is usually their objective

Hence, Joba Chamberlain was lit up.

He was staked a four-run lead in the first inning, but it didn’t take him long to lose the advantage. He allowed two runs to score in the top of the second inning on a double by 20-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus after retiring the first two hitters of the frame. That was the story of his night. His inability to get the third out unscathed doomed his chances for a prolonged and successful start.

The trend set by Ivan Rodriguez and Chris Davis, whose single and walk set the stage for Andrus, continued in the fourth, Chamberlain’s final inning. Again, he retired the first two batters of the inning rather quickly on seven pitches, but because of poor pitch selection and location, he needed 37 pitches to get the third out. Once again, Rodriguez and Davis were behind the two-out rally, walking and singling respectively, to bring Andrus up to the plate in another envious situation.

Andrus battled back from an 0-2 count by refusing to bite at two underwhelming sliders by Chamberlain, notching the count at 2-2 before a hanging slider came his way. He laced the offering into left-field, scoring Rodriguez to start the merry-go-round.

Julio Borbon, a 21-year-old center fielder called up earlier this year, continued a stellar beginning to his major league career, driving in Davis with a squib shot that dropped into shallow left field. The game was tied, and the Yankee crowd began to groan in restlessness. Groans would turn to boos after Michael Young, who is having a career year, singled in Andrus to break the tie. The boo-birds were out, but they had yet to become deafening. A two-run single by Josh Hamilton, who had four hits on the night, did the trick.

Chamberlain struck out Marlon Byrd to finally end the inning, and end the worst outing of his career. He walked off the mound dejected having given the Rangers a presumably comfortable 7-4 lead with which to work.

It turned out that the lead was far from comfortable, as Robinson Cano trimmed the deficit to two, with a solo-homer to begin the bottom of the fourth inning against Texas’ starting pitcher Kevin Millwood. But unlike Chamberlain, Millwood was able to stay composed and hold the opposition at bay. After a rocky first inning in which he walked two and allowed three hits, he settled down, relinquishing only the Cano homer for the remainder of his outing.

Rangers left fielder Nelson Cruz homered off Chamberlain’s replacement, David Robertson, in the fifth to answer Cano’s homer.

Neftali Feliz, a 21-year-old right-hander and Texas’ top prospect entering this season, took over for Millwood, and continued his dominant rookie season. He is reminiscent of a young Pedro Martinez: he’s lanky, with a similar motion, throws nearly 100 miles per hour—as Pedro once did—complements this blistering fastball with an array of refined offspeed junk, and shows no fear.

He lived up to this praise against the Yankees, throwing two scoreless innings, striking out two, while allowing just one baserunner.

While Feliz mowed down the Yankees, the lead was stretched to five as Young socked a two-run homer in the seventh. The game appeared out of reach for New York, as they entered the ninth still down five, but, as they showed, a potent offense can climb out of any hole.

Rangers’ reliever Jason Grilli started the frame and was ineffective, allowing the only batters he faced to reach. Their closer, Frank Francisco took over, but wasn’t any better, walking Alex Rodriguez to load the bases, then gave up five straight singles to bring the Yankees within one run.

New York had runners on first and second with nobody out and asked Nick Swisher to bunt the runners over and into scoring position. If he succeeded, a single could win the game. But he didn’t get the job done. Instead of driving the ball into the ground, thereby deadening it, Swisher tilted his bat upwards and popped it into the air. Young caught it for the first out, an ineffective and costly mistake by Swisher.

This set the stage for the finish.

Melky Cabrera lined a Francisco fastball towards Andrus at shortstop. What proceeded turned the Yankee crowds’ “Yeah!” at the crack of the bat, to “Oh…No!” in the blink of an eye. Andrus snagged the liner. Jerry Hairston Jr. had leaned towards third base as Cabrera made contact, and couldn’t recover in time. Andrus beat him to the second base bag, doubling him up and ending the game.

The 10-9 victory wasn’t the prettiest for the Rangers. Yet, because they tagged a lifeless Chamberlain, and because Millwood didn’t turn into Chamberlain, and because Francisco didn’t entirely turn into him, it was a victory.

This late in the season, a team in Texas’s situation will take a win any way they come.

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