CC Sabathia, the Yankees hope, will be fine, despite leaving Sunday's game in the second inning with what a Marlins doctor described as tendinitis in his left biceps. And the game -- a 6-5 final in the rubber match of a three-game series at Land Shark Stadium -- may not be as final as the score would indicate.
After a bizarre lineup mixup in the eighth inning, the Yankees filed an official protest to Major League Baseball. If they win the case, they will return to Miami to resume play at that point.
"The double-switch can be a little tricky sometimes," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
On this Sunday, Girardi did more switching than he would have preferred. Counting on Sabathia to give the Yankees at least seven innings for the ninth straight outing, Girardi instead took his starter out of the game with one out in the second inning. Unhappy with what he and catcher Jorge Posada saw as faulty mechanics, Girardi went to the mound twice in the second inning to check on their pitcher.
The second time, Sabathia admitted to being uncomfortable, experiencing a dull pain in his left arm. And so the first of a carousel of relievers entered -- from Alfredo Aceves to Brett Tomko to Phil Coke to David Robertson.
Tomko was the first to crack, allowing a two-run home run to Hanley Ramirez in the fifth inning and a solo shot to Cody Ross in the sixth. And the Yankees, despite a furious rally against Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom in the ninth, could not recover.
"I've been a bit of a wreck the last three or four times out," Tomko said. "It just seems like when I make a mistake, it's getting hit. It's a frustrating thing."
The Yankees will reevaluate Sabathia on Tuesday, and at that point will determine whether or not he will make his next start. Shortly after the game, they believed that he would.
"I'm not really concerned that much," Sabathia said.
The Yankees were able to fight back off Marlins starter Chris Volstad, scoring on Mark Teixeira's RBI double in the third inning and Alex Rodriguez's two-run single. Rodriguez, starting his first game after sitting out Friday and Saturday due to fatigue, drew a roar from the crowd of 35,827 -- many of them Yankee fans -- when he stepped up to the plate for the first time in the first inning.
A Miami resident in the winter, Rodriguez left approximately 250 tickets for friends and family to attend Sunday's game.
"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," Rodriguez said. "I wish we had a different outcome today."
But perhaps they still will. Trailing, 6-3, after seven innings, Girardi noticed that Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez had double-switched relief pitcher Leo Nunez into the game without removing left fielder Chris Coghlan as the other half of the double-switch. Bringing that to the attention of home plate umpire Tim Timmons, Girardi waited one pitch -- a strike -- and then went out to argue.
Succeeding in forcing the Marlins to take both Coghlan and pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza -- the man who should have been playing left field -- out of the game, Girardi also filed an official protest to Major League Baseball. If he wins, the Yankees would to return to Miami to resume the game from that point.
"I think that's what you do," Girardi said, before busting into a grin. "I'd like to keep the two runs I got in the ninth and just play the eighth over."
And why not? They were big runs late in the game -- the type the Yankees were scoring routinely in home games earlier this season. After Lindstrom recorded two quick outs in the ninth, Posada and Melky Cabrera both reached base, before Brett Gardner tripled them both home.
Lindstrom, struggling to throw strikes at that point, walked pinch-hitter Johnny Damon. But Derek Jeter swung at the first pitch and grounded it to short, ending the threat and the game -- for now.
"You can't be too selective when a guy throws 98 [mph]," Jeter said.
And so, barring intervention from the league, the Yankees dropped two out of three in their second straight series against a relatively weak National League team. Flat-out beaten by Josh Johnson in Saturday evening's game, the Yankees on Sunday lost to a pitcher -- Volstad -- with similar presence but weaker credentials.
"All of them are seven feet, throwing hard," Jeter said. "It's like we're playing the Knicks."
Jeter doesn't care who the Yankees play, of course, as long as they start winning with some regularity. They have now lost eight of their past 12 games, and on Sunday fell four games out of first place.
"It's frustrating," Girardi said. "We're a better team than what we've played the last two weeks."