Friday, May 22, 2009

A Loud Thud

We knew it was going to end, but did it really have to end like that? Ugh!

A.J. Burnett allowed a homer to Jimmy Rollins on the first pitch he threw, the offense couldn't muster an attack against Brett Myers, and the Yankees lost to the Phillies 7-3 Friday night at Yankee Stadium, snapping their nine-game winning streak.

We knew this would be a tough one even before the game started. Chien-Ming Wang's third rehab start with Scranton was aborted. He was needed back in the majors to reinforce the thin bullpen.

After pitching 8-1/3 innings because of Joba Chamberlain's injury in Thursday's victory, the bullpen was left short. Alfredo Aceves was unavailable, pitching 3-1/3 innings Thursday after two on Wednesday. Brian Bruney's elbow is still bothering him, though an MRI came up negative. Phil Coke has been battling some soreness and Mariano Rivera has pitched 2-1/3 innings over the last two days.

That left Brett Tomko as the only rested reliever. So down went Jonathan Albaladejo.

That meant the Yankees needed a big start from Burnett and for the offense to continue its stellar production.

They got neither.

Burnett continued to make Yankee fans wonder what happened to the pitcher who was murder on the Yankees and Red Sox last season before signing that big, free agent contract. Yes, Burnett's had some strong starts, but has not had the consistency needed for a legit No. 2. Of his last six outings, just two have qualified as quality starts. He hasn't earned a victory since April 14.

Friday he allowed five runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out seven and allowed three homers, including a two-run shot to Carlos Ruiz in the second and a two-run homer to Jayson Werth in the fifth.

It was a disappointing performance on a night when the Yankees needed at least seven stellar innings. What's more disappointing is that Burnett was coming off an outing in which he allowed two runs in 6-2/3 innings and seemed to have turned a corner.

That forced the Yankees to turn to Wang for the final three innings. We saw some positives, but some of the problems that plagued him through those miserable first three starts of the season remained.

Wang allowed two runs -- one on a homer -- six hits and one walk. He struck out two and threw 29 of 51 pitches for strikes. His ERA actually dropped from 34.50 to 25.00 -- and indication of just how bad those first three starts were.

We saw good velocity on Wang's fastball, hitting 94 mph consistently, an improvement over the 88-92 mph fastball he had at the start of the season.

We saw some good sinking action on his sinker. It didn't flatten like it had at the beginning of the season.

Abd while most of the hits were on grounders (a good sign), what we didn't see was the ability to keep the ball down in the zone consistently, resulting in the homer to Raul Ibanez.

Right now the Yankees are saying Wang could start Tuesday if Joba can't go, or Wednesday or Friday if Joba is healthy. It would have been nice if Wang could have had the third rehab start, but I don't think the Yankees should rush him back into the rotation just yet. Pitching out of the bullpen just might be the best way to rebuild his confidence, while allowing him rediscover his consistency.

He showed us enough Friday to make us believe he can again become that starter who won 19 games each in 2006 and '07, but he's not there yet. Give him a little more time.

Meanwhile, the offense produced little against Myers, getting a runner into scoring position just once. The three runs were on homers by Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. No where near enough on this night.

We knew the win streak was going to end. It just would have been nice if it had happened in a crisp, well-played game.

Runners In Scoring Position
0-for-1 (.000)
99-for-366 (.270)

Up Next
Saturday vs. Phillies, 4:10 p.m., FOX
J.A. Happ (2-0, 2.49 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (4-1, 4.18)

Just a gut feeling: expect a slugfest.

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