SEATTLE -- This was supposed to be the start when the rules that revolve around Joba Chamberlain's universe were going to relax, with the Yankees anticipating that he would finally pitch long enough to earn another victory. In a season when so much attention has been paid to the number of innings that Chamberlain is permitted to pitch, the problem on Sunday was their quality. Chamberlain allowed a season-high seven runs and was removed early as the Yankees suffered a 7-1 defeat to the Mariners at Safeco Field. "I let my teammates down, and it was pretty much embarrassing what I did," said Chamberlain, who completed just three innings. "Not being able to pick my team up and get out of here with a series win, it's frustrating."
The rough draft of the Yankees' plans had Chamberlain knowing that he would be permitted to pitch through five innings, having been restricted recently by the latest revision of the "Joba Rules." While Chamberlain said that he has not been affected by the continually evolving restrictions, at least one Yankees player -- catcher Jorge Posada -- said that the guidelines cannot be helping. "It's tough to pitch when you don't know what's going on," Posada said. "It is hard. You pitch three innings and they give you 10 days to pitch. It's tough to pitch like that." Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Chamberlain was in the middle of the plate too much without command, and the Mariners made him pay. Ken Griffey Jr. and Adrian Beltre touched Chamberlain for run-scoring hits in the first inning before Seattle opened the ballgame up with five runs in the second inning. Chamberlain issued a bases-loaded walk to Franklin Gutierrez and Jose Lopez popped a sacrifice fly before Griffey connected for a long three-run shot, career homer No. 627 and one of the few pitches that Chamberlain said he would have liked back. "It's just certain pitches," Chamberlain said. "You take away two pitches, and it might be one run or two runs. The long and short of it is that I'm going out to try to help this team win. Letting them down is frustrating." The hard-throwing right-hander walked three (one intentionally) and struck out two. Posada said that he spent most of the abbreviated afternoon trying to coax Chamberlain into getting his curveball and slider over the plate -- unable to, Chamberlain had to keep going to the fastball. "You try to make him attack," Posada said. "That's when he's good, when he's attacking the hitters and throwing his pitches." Chamberlain said that he felt his slider velocity was "great" and his fastball was more consistent. Regardless, he has made five starts since the Yankees revamped their approach with him late in August, turning in four three-inning outings and one four-frame start. Over that 16-inning span, Chamberlain has allowed 14 earned runs on 23 hits, a 7.87 ERA. Those numbers give Girardi some concern when faced with the idea that, after his next two starts, Chamberlain might be pitching in a postseason series. "He's still got two more starts to throw the ball well and his next start is important," Girardi said. "It's real important. We need to get him throwing the baseball like he can." Girardi said that he does not anticipate any scenario where Chamberlain would not be considered New York's fourth starter for the playoffs, following CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. "This is not an easy game," Girardi said. "He's a young starter, and we've seen him really good and we've seen him struggle. He's one of the guys that has gotten us to this point and we'll continue to go with Joba." Likewise, Chamberlain said that he expects to be pitching next month. "I put in the time and effort that everybody else does," Chamberlain said. "I'm going to continue and go out and battle, and get the ball and do everything that I need to do to be successful." Seattle right-hander Ian Snell dodged early trouble to coast to his fifth victory. The Yankees appeared primed to strike in the first inning, as Derek Jeter led off with a single and Johnny Damon walked. But Snell evaded the jam and would keep the Yankees off the board until the sixth inning, when Posada -- reinstated to the roster after serving a three-game suspension -- stroked a run-scoring double to drive in Mark Teixeira and end Snell's afternoon, charged with one run on four hits. "We had him on the ropes in the first, and after they scored some runs for him, he was able to relax and pitch," Damon said. "The last time we faced him, he left a lot of pitches up in the zone. Today, he stayed down and he was effectively wild at some points. He's always been known to have pretty good stuff. It was just a matter of him putting it together." The brightest spot of the afternoon for the Yankees was that Sergio Mitre, who had been banished to the bullpen after two troublesome September starts, hurled five innings of scoreless one-hit relief after Chamberlain's exit. It was too soon to definitively say if Chamberlain's issues had been mechanical, as they were when pitching coach Dave Eiland identified a hitch in his delivery. But Chamberlain left the stadium believing that some tweaks in setting up hitters would be enough to correct whatever flaws prompted Sunday's problems. "You can kick me as much as you want, but I'm going to come back fighting every time," Chamberlain said. "That's the way I've lived this life and the way I play this game of baseball. It's going to take a lot more than this."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.