Rafael Soriano was unavailable having pitched in five straight games. That left the job of getting the final three outs to David Robertson.
Robertson recorded the final three outs, but not before allowing the three-run home run to Dayan Viciedo that handed the Yankees a 4-3 loss to the White Sox Thursday night.
The Yankees tried to get through the game by mixing and matching for the final five outs after Ivan Nova struck out Kevin Youkilis in a critical spot for the first out of the eighth and with a runner in scoring position.
They succeeded in the eighth with Boone Logan getting Adam Dunn and Cody Eppley retiring Paul Konerko.
Then came the ninth and the Yankees wound up losing for just the third time when leading through eight innings.
Trouble started when Eppley allowed a single to Alex Rios, but then it became really dicey when left-hander Clay Rapada fielded A.J. Pierzynski’s ground ball but made a wild throw that eluded Derek Jeter at second and sailed into center field.
“I’ve seen him do it hundreds of times in the PFPs (pitcher’s fielding practice),” Girardi said. “I’ve seen him do it a lot. Just for whatever reason tonight, he made a bad throw.”
“When you get burned by a pitch it happens,” Rapada said. “But it’s fundamentals of the game.”
That put runners at first and third and when Robertson hung a 1-0 fastball and Viciedo crushed it into the left field seats, giving the White Sox their sixth win in eight games.
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“It’s tough,” Robertson said. “It stinks. We have the game right there and a couple of things didn’t go my way. I made one bad pitch and they made me pay for it.”
Robertson was pitching in back-to-back games for the second time since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago. The pitch to Viciedo was clocked at 90 miles per hour, leaving Girardi slightly concerned
“We’ve only used him once back-to-back and he has been hurt,” Girardi said. “So I’m going to be careful. His velocity has not been as consistent as it was before he did get hurt, so I’m watching him still closely.
“I’m going to use him. We got to get him back to where he was. He’s not quite there, but we’ll get him back.”
Robertson being in the game instead of Soriano could have been second guessed, but Soriano worked out of a bases loaded jam Wednesday and threw 30 pitches.
That left Girardi with no reservations about bringing Robertson into the game or about mixing and matching with his bullpen.
“He worked really hard yesterday,” Girardi said. “I can’t run him out five out of six days after a tough day yesterday. That would be really foolish on my part.
“We give up a hit and we get a double play ball. I’m bringing him in with two outs. There should be two outs. I’m mixing and matching and I said I’m going to have to do that. It’s not like I haven’t done it since Mo went down and Robby went down. We’ve done a lot of mixing and matching and I’m going to continue to do it.”
The rare bullpen failure by a group that had posted the American League’s second-best ERA spoiled a good night by Ivan Nova. Nova allowed one run and six hits -- four to Alejandro De Aza -- and was in line for his sixth straight win.
“I just feel really bad, but I can’t get mad at my teammates,” Nova said. “A lot of times I put runners in scoring position and they pick me up.”
The Yankee lineup did not pick up Nova against Dylan Axelrod, who gave up consecutive RBI doubles to Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano in the fifth. That was the extent of the Yankee offense against Axelrod, whom Girardi said made things difficult with his slider and by living on the edge of the plate.
They added a run in the eighth on Mark Teixeira’s home run, but saw their five-game winning streak end when Jeter flied out to the warning track against Chicago closer Addison Reed.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.