Yet Pettitte -- easily the horse of this Yankees rotation -- had a perfect opportunity to give his bullpen a breather. Seven innings would have been nice. Eight would have been great. Nine, perhaps a pipe dream, but a hope nonetheless.
Pettitte, however, lasted only five. And the Yankees lost to the Rangers, 8-6.
"It hurts me in my gut right now," Pettitte said. "I'm sick. I just felt like I let everybody down, and I'm extremely disappointed."
What hurt Pettitte was a lack of command, as demonstrated by a walk to Michael Young, the third batter he faced. The fourth batter, Josh Hamilton, took advantage, blasting a two-run homer and putting the Yankees in a hole from which they could not recover.
Not that they didn't try. Richie Sexson hit a grand slam in the eighth inning to draw the Yankees back within two runs, but the rally ended there. The Yankees had fallen.
"And that just made it a lot closer game than it was," outfielder Johnny Damon said.
It wasn't a particularly close game until Sexson's slam, largely because of Pettitte's inefficiency. He walked three batters and allowed leadoff hits in the second and third innings.
Both of those batters came around to score.
But even more vexing was that by the time he allowed consecutive singles to open the sixth inning, Pettitte had thrown 104 pitches. So as much as manager Joe Girardi wanted to avoid using his bullpen, he had no choice. The bullpen entered, and the damage continued.
"I expect so much out of myself, and that's why I'm so disappointed tonight," Pettitte said. "Joba was down, and we didn't have a great outing last night out of our starter, and it's my job to make sure I take us deep in the game. I take a lot of pride in doing that, and it's just extremely disappointing when you're not able to do it. And it hurts."
Chamberlain's injury also produced some secondary effects that made the Yankees bullpen even less effective. Because Damaso Marte had thrown 42 pitches in relief of Chamberlain on Monday, he was unavailable. Because Edwar Ramirez had pitched in two straight games, his status was iffy. And because the Yankees wanted to limit the use of Dan Giese and Rasner -- both pitchers might start this weekend -- they had ever fewer options out of the 'pen.
David Robertson was one of those options, but he walked three Rangers in his 1 2/3 innings. Brian Bruney was another, but he walked two batters and served up a three-run double to rookie Chris Davis. So by the time Sexson hit his grand slam in the eighth inning, the Yankees were staring at a far greater deficit than the one Pettitte had created. This taxed bullpen, quite simply, was no relief.
"Obviously, we've had some limitations the last few days, just because the way we've had to use some guys," Girardi said. "But I still think our guys are strong."
The walks, Girardi said, were the night's main culprits.
Yet there were other culprits, too. Despite facing a starter, Matt Harrison, who entered the game with a 7.40 ERA, the Yankees could not convert their ample run-scoring opportunities. Three double plays over the course of three innings hurt their chances, as did an inability to take advantage of the walks they received. The Rangers, like the Yankees, were erratic, walking eight batters as a staff.
But the Rangers converted. The Yankees did not.
And so the Yankees were left looking at the scoreboard, a large model out in left field that posts results from all the league's games. Tuesday's edition showed that the Red Sox had won and the Rays had won, pushing the Yankees 6 1/2 games out of first place in the American League East.
They have lost seven out of their past 10 games and are quickly gaining the wrong kind of momentum. And only more uncertainty awaits the Yankees this weekend, when they'll proceed without Chamberlain and without any newfound bullpen stability.
"It's critical now," Damon said. "We're 6 1/2 out. This road trip is very important, and we've already started out 0-2."
Some time remains, but not much time. Enough time, sure -- but only just enough.
"We've been in this situation before, and we just can't go into panic," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "We've just got to play with a lot of urgency, and take every game like it's the last."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.