The bullpen, considered to be one of the team's strong suits coming into the postseason (with a regular season ERA of 3.91, good for 5th-best in the AL), gave up a winnable game in the 7th, with Phil Hughes' inability to locate serving as the nail in the coffin.
Unfortunately, Hughes -- key bullpen piece and bridge to Mariano Rivera -- has had a pretty rough postseason, which few people expected after such a dominant stretch as the 8th inning setup man. Let's take a quick look at what the bullpen has done in the playoffs:
Despite last night's shenanigans, the Yankees still have the best bullpen ERA of the remaining teams in the postseason. Almost every component of the 'pen has done its job with the exception of Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Alfredo Aceves. This is somewhat disconcerting given that Joba and Hughes were expected to lock down the 7th and 8th innings.
Again, I know we're looking at the smallest of small sample sizes, but at this point I think Girardi should only go to Hughes to start a given inning, and Joba even more sparingly as my confidence in either pitcher to wriggle out of jams is mostly shot right now. Joba has had location issues since the first round, and Hughes' command was absolutely nowhere to be found last night. I never thought I could possibly agree with something that came out of Tim McCarver's mouth, but even McCarver knew Hughes needed to bury another curve in the dirt on the 1-2 pitch to Vlad Guerrero last night. I guess he didn't have confidence enough in the pitch to throw it back to back, given that he shook Posada off about eight times.
Come the first sign of trouble in the 7th inning or later, the new pecking order should probably have David Robertson near or at the top of the list. I should reiterate that I'm not looking to bury Joba and Hughes -- they can and likely will still play a very vital role going forward -- but I might even go to Chad Gaudin before handing the ball to Phil or Joba with runners on.