The Yankees lost to the Royals 4-3 Wednesday night in one of the most boring games I've ever had the misfortune of attending, and this is coming from someone who witnessed the Yankees get no-hit by six Astros pitchers in 2003.
The story of the game was Joba Chamberlain. Unable to get through four full (he'd complete 3 2/3 innings), the efficient, effective Joba of last Friday vs. the Red Sox was apparently murdered, mutilated and dumped into Bay Harbor, as last night's incarnation tossed 91 pitches (only 52 for strikes) and exited down 3-1. Alfredo Aceves came in and did his usual commendable job in relief, but the Yankees -- trotting out their likely postseason starting nine -- looked even flatter than Joba on offense. Outside of a leadoff home run by Derek Jeter and a two-run shot by Nick Swisher, the Yankees mustered a grand total of three other hits, apparently mistaking Kansas City starter Robinson Tejeda for Zach Grienke. Seriously. The Yankees' best-offense-in-the-league managed just five hits against Royals pitching, whose team ERA ranks 26th of 30.
I know, I know, it's the 159th game of the season, and it seems insane to complain about a meaningless contest against the Royals, what with the division and home field advantage throughout the playoffs wrapped up, but truthfully I really wanted the Yankees to take this game for purely selfish reasons -- a win would have given me a winning record on the season for games I attended, and instead I reluctantly finished 5-5.
Still, despite the Yankees' inexplicable anemia against one of the worst teams in baseball, Swisher's home run tied the game and for a short while it looked as though the Yankees might pull out yet another come-from-behind victory and potential 16th walk-off. Unfortunately Swisher misplayed what appeared to be a catchable ball in the 7th that resulted in a go-ahead RBI triple for Royals catcher John Buck, who, despite being a rather ordinary big-league catcher, is one of those guys that always seems to get a big hit against the Yankees.
The Yankees went down meekly in the 7th and 8th innings, and by the 9th inning -- with 7 of the nine starters out of the lineup -- seemed primed for a loss, late-inning Yankee Stadium walk-off heroics be damned. Eric Hinske and Hideki Matsui went down quickly, bringing recent walk-off hero and Yankee folk legend Francisco Cervelli to the plate. Cervelli somehow managed a two-out single off Royals closer Joakim Soria, and after a surprise Freddy Guzman ground-out-turned-error put the tying and winning runs on 2nd and 3rd, Ramiro Pena incredibly had a chance to win the game with a base hit. Unfortunately, Soria did exactly what you'd expect Soria to do there and got Pena to pop out, ending the threat.
Not that he had any real reason to, but Joe Girardi clearly didn't really care about the outcome of this game, between lifting Jeter before the top of 7th with the score tied, allowing Sergio Mitre to come in and give up the eventual winning run (although that may not have entirely been Mitre's fault) and inserting almost all of the scrubs -- save Shelley Duncan, Juan Miranda and Jose Molina -- in the 8th and 9th innings.
In any event, Joba's next scheduled start isn't for nearly three weeks(!), assuming the Yankees make it to Game 4 of the ALCS. He'll obviously be getting plenty of work in during various bullpen and side sessions -- I wouldn't be surprised to see him for a few innings in relief at some point this weekend -- but it's anyone's guess as to how he'll fare with so much time off in between real game action. It would have been great to end his last start of the regular season on a high note, but such is life as a 23-year-old pitcher with all the talent in the world still in search of a way to utilize it effectively on a regular basis.