Yanks pick up Joba, take down Jays

Yanks pick up Joba, take down Jays

NEW YORK -- There is an apparent disconnect between what Joba Chamberlain says and does.

Each start is virtually the same. His outings have consistently been bogged down with long counts, untimely walks and ultimately an early exit. In the clubhouse afterward, Chamberlain always gives a justification, a rationalization -- an explanation for why he was successful despite throwing more than 100 pitches in five innings.

In many ways, Sunday was no different. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 10-8, in spite of one of the most forgettable performances of Chamberlain's young career. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering a career-high eight runs (three earned) and looking completely out of sync the entire game. Four-hit afternoons by Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and a brilliant relief outing by Alfredo Aceves took Chamberlain off the hook.

Nevertheless, Chamberlain refused to acknowledge his own struggles, almost sounding in denial as he once again faced the problems that have continued to plague him all season. And as his performance worsened, so did the legitimacy of his reasoning.

The righty argued that Sunday was the best he felt coming out of the bullpen before any of his starts, and that his mechanics were the soundest and cleanest they have been all season.

Yet Chamberlain's performance was no better. Hence, the disconnect. It seemed like he was not trying to convince the media of anything on Sunday. This time, he may have been trying to convince himself.

"I did a good job today, I felt like," Chamberlain said. "They're great hitters. I threw good pitches, and they put good swings on them."

The numbers suggest the contrary. Before the game, manager Joe Girardi stressed the importance of Chamberlain working quicker, keeping his pitch count down and attacking hitters early in the count. Then the righty walked the game's first batter, Marco Scutaro, on a 3-2 slider -- a pitch Girardi said could have set the tone for the entire contest.

It did not improve much from there. Chamberlain visibly labored throughout the game, even when the Yanks posted a quick 4-0 lead after two innings. He allowed three runs in the third, including a two-run home run to Adam Lind, and couldn't escape the fourth.

Third baseman Cody Ransom fumbled a grounder in that inning, putting runners on first and second with one out. That's when Chamberlain broke down.

After inducing David Dellucci to fly out, Chamberlain surrendered four consecutive hits and another homer, this one to Aaron Hill. Ransom's error rendered all the runs in the inning unearned, but Chamberlain was unable to work around it. He said after the game that the bad inning was his fault, not Ransom's.

"I made good pitches," Chamberlain said. "They hit the ones that weren't so good.

When it was over, Chamberlain had thrown 86 pitches in less than four innings. The nine hits he gave up tied a career high. The Yankees' 4-0 lead was suddenly an 8-4 deficit.

"He had some long counts, he gets in the stretch, he works extremely slow," Girardi said. "We talked about him improving his pace a little bit. It's just attacking the hitters more is what it is. Sometimes, your mechanics can be off a little bit and not allow you to do that, but it's important."

The Yankees quickly battled back. Hideki Matsui hit a three-run blast in the fourth to cut it to 8-7. An inning later, Derek Jeter hit a two-run homer, which proved to be the winning hit. Jorge Posada drove in an insurance run with a double.

Aceves made sure New York wouldn't need to score anymore. With Mariano Rivera, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes all unavailable in the Yankees' bullpen, Aceves gave them exactly what they needed: length. He worked four scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and picking up his first big league save.

"Ace knows how to pitch," Girardi said. "That's what you see him do a lot with all the different pitches that he has -- [he] knows how to change speeds, knows how to locate. He was great today."

Still, Chamberlain remained the story. The Yankees are 11-5 in his starts, but he has managed to work more than six innings just three times. Girardi has defended Chamberlain for weeks, citing his age and inexperience. But he sounded frustrated that there has not been much progress.

Girardi said there will be plenty of conversations with Chamberlain in the coming days, some of which will be "animated." Considering Chamberlain is just 23 years old, Girardi realizes the value of staying patient, and that's what he will continue to do.

"He's learning valuable lessons," Girardi said. "Valuable lessons aren't always learned when you throw the ball great. Valuable lessons are sometimes learned when you struggle."

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.