The Yankees took a 1-0 lead against Felix Hernandez into the bottom of the 8th inning in Seattle. Unfortunately, for the second time this month Joba Chamberlain was not up to the challenge of holding the lead for Mariano Rivera. He recorded only one out before loading the bases and giving up a grand slam to Jose Lopez. The Yankees brought the tying run to the plate twice in the 9th against King Felix, but went on to lose 4-1.
Javier Vazquez desperately needs run support from the Bombers. He flirted with brilliance last night. He took a no-hitter into the 6th inning, and had only allowed a single base runner to that point. Ichiro Suzuki broke up the no-no with a hard infield single that hit Javy. He was safe when Vazquez botched a rushed throw on a play that just as easily could have been ruled an error as a hit. Vazquez labored in the 7th, but completed the inning and didn't allow a run.
Allowing runs is what Chamberlain is for. The Yankee blogosphere is alive today with speculation about whether or not Joba should keep the setup job. At this point I believe the answer is no, not until he can demonstrate prolonged success in lower leverage situations. His velocity is returning in his bullpen role, but, like Kyle Fansworth before him, he's demonstrating that velocity alone doesn't make for a good pitcher.
The Yankees, unfortunately, don't have a setup man in waiting. You can view Joba's splits on the season here. He's only been an above average pitcher for the Yankees in April. To my eyes David Robertson would be the next option, except a quick glance at his splits shows he's only been marginally better than Joba. He was lights out in limited work in June, but hasn't demonstrated enough consistency to earn the promotion.
If the team isn't in a position to trade for the kind of arm they need, then it may be time to mix and match in the 8th inning. Right now Joe Girardi appears to be hoping to get 8 innings from each of his starters to hand the ball straight to Mo, especially when CC Sabathia or Andy Pettitte pitch. Even Vazquez threw a season high 117 pitches last night over 7 innings. Down the stretch the starters are going to need some easy games, especially with Phil Hughes' innings limit coming into effect. The best alternative would be to setup Mo by committee, going to relievers whose strengths are called for at that time. The challenge to this, sadly, is that other than Mo none of the team's relievers appears to have strengths.
CC Sabathia goes for win number 12 (wins are silly, but still, 12 before the All-Star break would be pretty funky!) against Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Yankees faced Rowland-Smith on July 1st but managed only 2 runs against him in a 4-2 victory. Hopefully the team can improve on that, maintain at least a 2 game lead over Tampa Bay, and head into the All-Star break on a high note, and not two consecutive losses.
EDITED, 10:18am: We didn't have a chance to recap Friday night's 6-1 win, which brought the Yankees' winning streak to seven games before Joba singlehandedly broke it last night. Phil Hughes was brilliant in his last start before his first All-Star Game, giving up the one run over seven innings, while Mark Teixeira hit home runs from both sides of the plate.