The first pie of the year was delivered to Nick Swisher for his game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th inning.
A similar award could have been handed to Joba Chamberlain and Bartolo Colon for their efforts at run prevention that allowed the Yankees to overcome a five-run deficit, Phil Hughes’ third poor start and pull out a 6-5 victory over the Orioles Thursday night.
Chamberlain’s efforts were most noticeable because it isn’t often a 240-pound player loses a battle with a 185-pound opponent in Felix Pie. When Pie tried a twist move around the plate, Chamberlain would not budge and successfully applied the tag.
“I kind of peeked and saw his foot coming,” Chamberlain said. “I was going to do everything I could to try to get that out and save that lead.”
“That was a 180-pounder against a 250-pounder or whatever Joba is,” Martin said. “Joba’s going to win that every time.”
Before Chamberlain won that mismatch with Pie, Colon continued preventing runs by pitching three scoreless innings. Colon gave up three hits, recorded all three strikeouts swinging and most of his 54 pitches were effective sinkers or two-seam fastballs.
“We thought he could do a good job in that role because he’s a guy that throws so many strikes and gives your club a chance to come back,” manager Joe Girardi said.
“With this team, we know we’re always coming back,” Colon said. “We know we always have a chance,”
At the time, the Yankees had begun chipping away at a 5-0 deficit, Colon left with a one-run deficit and Chamberlain’s block kept it that way. An inning later, Colon and Chamberlain’s efforts would prove even larger when Jorge Posada hit a solo home run off Kevin Gregg, setting the stage for Swisher to deliver the game-winner.
“That pie was great. It doesn’t get any better than that pie,” Swisher said. “It just seemed like the sun came out today.”
The sun definitely did not come out for Hughes, whose velocity crisis of 2011 was granted a reprieve after the Yankees’ largest home comeback since May 1, 2009 against the Angels.
Hughes was booed off the mound after allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings. It actually was his longest outing of the year and lowered his ERA to 13.70 but still not well enough.
“It’s frustrating,” Hughes said. “I feel like I’m doing nothing to help the team right now. It seems like its 18 days between my starts. That’s not a good feeling, answering those questions about how poorly I’m pitching. But what are you going to do?
That’s what the Yankees would like to figure out.
Right now, they are going on track record that Hughes will overcome it because the arm strength and subsequent velocity appeared as the season grew deeper.
Last night, it seemed that Hughes had solved the issue. He hit 90 or higher 18 times during the first two innings but it all came apart as Nick Markakis hit a cutter that hung over the plate for a two-run home run in the third.
Following a fourth-inning sacrifice fly by Mark Reynolds, Hughes was knocked out after allowing a run-scoring hit to Markakis.
“I thought he was a little bit better the first two innings; we actually saw some 91s and 92s today,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s still not right.”
Still despite not being right, Martin felt there were enough positives to feel encouraged.
“His bullpen was better coming out of the gate today, and then it looked like he might have gotten a little fatigued or something was off, but early on it looked like he was back,” Martin said.
“And then he just kind of lost a little of his velocity, but I thought he pitched better. He made more pitches today. He had better command of his stuff, a little bit. It was definitely a step forward for him, I think.”
GM Brian Cashman stood by his comments that Pedro Feliciano was abused by the Mets over the past three years, but his mood also became dark on a suggestion he was a hypocrite in speaking out about
Feliciano considering how pitchers Scott Proctor and Ron Villone were used during the Joe Torre era.
“If you want to get Joe Torre on the phone, you’ll know I’m not a hypocrite,” Cashman said. “I dealt with our pitching coach, I dealt with our manager and we have new people here that utilize people a certain way now.
“These guys aren’t finite assets out there. There’s a very limited group of people capable on a consistent basis of performing at a high level of success. You can’t put your assets in jeopardy. You can’t overuse them, or you lose them.”
In terms of adding a second lefty, don’t expect that to happen due to the time of year. One internal option might be 28-year-old Andy Sisco, but the Yankees haven’t seen enough of the same velocity he showed in the Mexican League.
If the Yankees add another pitcher, it seems that would occur sometime after the June draft and before the July 31 trading deadline.
“You might run into somebody’s headache,” Cashman said. “That might become your fortune because you can turn them around with a change of scenery or something like that — somebody’s bad contract.”