Monday, September 21, 2009

Time To Grow Up, Joba

One the not-so-rare occasions that my wife becomes frustrated with me, she likes to tell me that I'm the most stubborn man on the planet.

It's at those moments that I point her in the direction of Joba Chamberlain and she quickly backtracks and tells me I'm the second-most stubborn man on the planet.

That's only because I actually learn from my mistakes ... sometimes. Joba doesn't.

How else to explain why Joba just doesn't seem to understand that in order to succeed, he needs to work quickly and be aggressive with his fastball?

Joba allowed seven runs in three inning -- failing to go his prescribed five innings -- and the Yankees lost to the Mariners 7-1 Sunday to drop 2 of 3 at Seattle.

The Yankees are now just five games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East, their magic number to clinch the division frozen at nine, though they can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win or a Rangers loss.

The Sox have won 10 of their last 11. The Yankees have gone 4-5 in their last nine and have played very inconsistently -- not exactly the way they wanted to be playing as they head into this crucial week with three at the Angels before returning home to host the Sox for three.

Joba didn't even give the Yankees a chance in this one, though it would have been a tad more tolerable had Mariano Rivera been able to close out Friday's game, which turned into a 3-2 loss on Ichiro Suzuki's walkoff, two-run homer. The loss spoiled a terrific outing from A.J. Burnett.

That one hurt. But CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui took the sting out of that loss with a 10-1 Saturday. Teixeira went 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBI, Cano also went 4-for-5 and Matsui launched his 26th homer of the season. Sabathia, meanwhile, allowed one unearned run in seven innings with eight strikeouts to pick up American League-leading 18th win and lower his ERA to 3.31.

That left it up to Joba to pull out the series in what was supposed to be a key start for him as the Yankees rebuild his armstrength. After three straight starting in which he was limited to three innings, Joba went four in a sharp start Monday and was supposed to go five Sunday.

Things didn't work out as planned.

The Yankees seemed as if they would jump on Ian Snell early, only to let him off the hook. Derek Jeter led off with a single and Johnny Damon walked, but Teixeira popped out, Alex Rodriguez struck out and Matsui grounded out. A sign of things to come.

Joba started well enough, getting Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez to fly out, but Jose Lopez doubled to left, Ken Griffey Jr. doubled to center to score Lopez and Adrian Beltre singled to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

Had Joba settled down after that, the Yanks might have had a chance. Instead, Joba got worse.

Mike Carp and Adam Moore led off the second with single before Josh Wilson sacrificed them over. Joba then intentionally walked Ichiro, but the strategy backfired when Joba missed on a 3-and-2 pitch to to Gutierrez to walk in a run.

Lopez then hit a sacrifice fly before Junior blew it open, as Joba left a 1-and-2, 93 mph fastball in Griffey's happy zone (down and in). Junior's eyes grew about as wide as my son's whenever he see chocolate cake, crushing the pitch deep to right to make it 7-0.

Game over.

The Yankees pushed across one on Jorge Posada's double in the sixth and Sergio Mitre, banished to the bullpen with Chad Gaudin assuming the No. 5 stater's spot (Hooray!), pitched five scoreless innings in relief, but that didn't really matter.

Joba allowed seven runs on six hit and three walks in three innings. He struck out two and threw just 37 of 69 pitches for strikes.

He was, in a word, terrible.

The Yankees are still figuring on Joba being their fourth starter in the playoffs, but the 23-year-old righthander has just two scheduled starts remaining in the regular season to get straightened and stretched out. His next start is supposed to be Saturday vs. the Sox.

This wasn't the intended result of the latest Joba Plan, and the Yankee braintrust has clearly erred in their handling of their prized prospect, but Joba hasn't held up his end of the bargain either.

He simply has to grow up, bear down, pitch the way he's supposed to and get outs.

Maybe the Yanks should just send Joba back home to Nebraska for a few days.

That got him straighted out at the All-Star break.

Maybe it can work again.

Runners In Scoring Position
0-for-4 (.000)
4-for-14 (.286)
1-for-11 (.091)
389-for-1,432 (.272)
First Half
217-for-819 (.265)
Second Half
172-for-613 (.281)
Since A-Rod's Return May 8
324-for-1,159 (.280)
Vs. Red Sox
36-for-163 (.221)

Up Next
Monday at Angles, 10:05 p.m., YES
Andy Pettitte (13-6, 4.14 ERA) vs. Joe Saunders (13-7, 4.75)

The Yanks pushed Pettitte's start back a few days after he complained of some arm soreness in his last start. He had a good bullpen Friday and should be good to go. Of course, the Yankees have had a dreadful time playing in Anaheim, where they have lost 16 of their last 21. Fortunately, Saunders has a 7.97 ERA in four appearances in his career against the Yankees.

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