The concept of run prevention has gone fairly well for the Yankees' rotation. As for Joe Girardi’s relief corps, that is an entirely different story, especially in the last 72 hours.
For the second time in three days, the Yankees went from a certain victory to a confounding defeat, this time wasting a five-run lead and allowing six runs in the final two innings of a 7-6 loss to the Red Sox.
It was not David Robertson, Chan Ho Park nor anyone else that usually comes in before the eighth. It was the two men entrusted with getting the final six outs – Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera – who failed again.
Chamberlain could not get through the eighth Sunday, forcing Rivera to attempt a four-out save. He made it through the eighth last night but not before the Red Sox had four runs on the combination of an Alex Rodriguez throwing error and four subsequent hits.
“That one was on me, nobody else. I’ll take full credit for it,’’ Chamberlain said. “We don’t have to fight back if I do my job.’’
It was Chamberlain’s worst outing as a reliever and it earned him some boos from those that stuck around through the four-hour affair. It also raised his ERA to 4.91 just five days after he lowered it to 2.16 by striking out the side and getting a win over the Twins.
“They have a right to (boo)," Chamberlain said. "They spend their hard-earned money and I didn't do my job.
Chamberlain described his pitches as terrible and was unable to correct them.
Those pitches were a slider to Dustin Pedroia that was slapped into right field, a fastball that hung over the outer edge of the plate that J.D. Drew turned into a run-scoring double to left. The other pitches that led to Chamberlain’s demise were an inside fastball to Kevin Youkilis that became a two-run single into no-man’s land in right and a knee-high slider to David Ortiz that resulted in a long single off the wall in right-center field.
Statistically the loss went to Rivera, who allowed a Jason Kubel grand slam Sunday after converting 51 straight saves at home. Rivera could have kept the game tied had Marcus Thames made a play virtually all major leaguers make.
The misty conditions could have served as the perfect excuse for Thames failing to track a routine pop up by Marco Scutaro. It burned the Yankees when Jeremy Hermida lifted a two-run double over left fielder Randy Winn’s head.
“That ball has to be caught," Thames said. "I'm a Major League player, and I have to catch that ball. And I didn't. I don't make any excuses. It was bad the whole game, but there are no excuses. I have to make that play."
A night hitting a game-winning homer off Jonathan Papelbon, Thames came up again and prolonged the rally attempt with a walk. It only delayed the inevitable on a night when the blame for the Yankees’ 14th loss in 39 games featured plenty to go around.
The third straight fiasco in the eighth might even be forgotten if the league office accepts the Yankees protest but that appears unlikely.
Girardi played the game under protest after Josh Beckett was removed with two outs in the fifth with tightness in his lower back. The Yankees did not think any indication was made of an injury and protested when Manny DelCarmen was given unlimited time to get ready.
“They signaled to the bullpen before they announced to the umpire that he was hurt," Girardi said. "You’re supposed to get eight warm-up pitches when you make a pitching change, and if he’s physically hurt, you take the trainer and tell the umpire that he’s hurt."
That turned out to be the least of his worries.
Despite David Ortiz’s 2-for-16 off Damaso Marte, the Yankees had no intention of using the lefty. A night earlier, he threw 26 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.
There was a good chance if the Yankees were not shorthanded they would have replaced Thames defensively. That would have gone to Greg Golson, but he was optioned back to the minors so Mark Melancon could be added to the bullpen.
Girardi said Jorge Posada (foot) and Nick Swisher (biceps) were not available to pinch hit and said they could possibly play tonight.
Had the Yankees won, the talk might have been how CC Sabathia pitched. Sabathia allowed a Youkilis home run among four hits in seven innings but was helpless to stop the Yankees from blowing their largest lead at home in three years.