"It was just bad location," said Chamberlain, who gave up three runs or more for the third time in his last five appearances.
Imprecision with his fastball has been the common theme. Even after he was able to get ahead in a few counts, Chamberlain could not finish hitters. Mark Grudzielanek and Trevor Crowe each collected RBI singles off Chamberlain while, in between those two, Lou Marson and Jason Donald hit consecutive two-run doubles. Three of the four hits came on fastballs.
"He left pitches in the middle of the plate," Girardi said. "He just didn't make the pitches that he has to."
Chamberlain was the fourth reliever in a seemingly interminable top of the seventh that lasted more than 40 minutes. David Robertson started the inning, but departed with a runner on, a run in and a 1-0 count on Jhonny Peralta because of tightness in his back. Sergio Mitre came on and walked Peralta before Damaso Marte induced a flyout from pinch-hitter Russell Branyan for the second out. It took Chamberlain six batters to get the third.
The erosion of the Yankees' lead, however, began even earlier with starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia, who retired 10 of the first 11 Indians he faced, lost his rhythm in the fourth inning and gave back all of an early 3-0 lead. He threw as many pitches in that inning (31) as he had needed in the first three and had three different meetings with Francisco Cervelli on the mound during a single at-bat facing Peralta.
Sabathia said he was missing signs while Cervelli said the Yankees were changing them constantly with Austin Kearns on second base.
"We tried to change the signs because [the Indians] are really smart," Cervelli said. "When you've got a team like this that's so smart, they can [figure out signs] a little bit."
Sabathia seemed agitated on the mound and eventually walked Peralta before yielding two-out RBI hits to Grudzielanek and Matt LaPorta to tie the game.
"I feel like I kept them in the game," said Sabathia, who finished the day having allowed five earned runs on seven hits in six innings. "Every time we scored a couple runs, I would give up a run or two to keep Cleveland in the game. We scored 11 runs. I should have been able to shut them down and keep the game under control."
It was the fourth straight time the Yankees lost a game started by Sabathia, but the first time they've lost with him on the hill for a regular-season game at Yankee Stadium since last July 2.
The meltdown on the mound overshadowed another sparkling day for the Yankees' offense, which has scored 19 runs in two games so far this series. The Bombers broke open that 3-3 tie with a six-spot in the fourth that saw 11 men come to bat. Cleveland reliever Aaron Laffey walked three and hit a man in a four-batter stretch to drive in two runs before Robinson Cano delivered another key knock with a two-run, opposite-field double.
The Yankees scored in double digits for just the second time in three weeks while rapping out 13 hits. New York had not lost a game in which it scored as many as 11 runs since dropping a 16-11 decision in Boston on April 25, 2009, which was also the last time the Yankees blew a six-run lead.
The game also included a scary moment in the third inning, when Alex Rodriguez smoked a line drive up the middle that struck Indians' starter David Huff just above the left ear. Huff lay motionless on the mound for several minutes, but he never lost consciousness. He was placed on a backboard and taken to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where a CT scan came back negative. Huff returned to Yankee Stadium by the ninth inning.
New York had hoped it had found its stride over the past week, with a series win in Minnesota and an opening rout of the Indians in the Bronx. But Saturday reiterated concerns about the bullpen and starting rotation in a game about as ugly as that first game the new Stadium hosted against the Tribe last season.
"It's a bad loss," Girardi said. "There's no question about it -- it's a bad loss.
"We got off to a great start, and we've been kind of treading water since then. That's frustrating for us. ... It's a long year. You're going to go through your ups and downs, and you've got to find a way to bounce back tomorrow."