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5th inning: Chamberlain punches out 10…and inspires anger

05.05.09 at 8:49 pm ET
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Even though Joba Chamberlain has settled into a dominating rhythm, he had to wave goodbye to an impressive streak following the scoreless fifth inning. For the first time in his career, he has gone at least five innings but allowed more than three runs. Until tonight, he had 11 starts of at least five innings and had never permitted more than three earned runs in any of them.

It seems unlikely that Chamberlain cares. After all, he once again struck out the side in the fifth, and now has set a new career high with 10 punchouts tonight, all in the span of the last four innings. His changeup has been an extraordinary weapon to both lefties (as evidenced by his punchout of Jonathan Van Every to start the inning) and right-handers (Dustin Pedroia went down looking at one). His velocity also continues to jump — he fired one pitch in his sequence against David Ortiz that registered at 96 mph.

Chamberlain walked Ortiz, then drilled Jason Bay in the shoulder with a 93 mph fastball. Given that Bay has crunched three homers against the Yankees this year, the plunking came across as somewhat suspect. Bay glared briefly at Chamberlain before taking his base. Given the pitcher’s history of throwing at the heads of the Red Sox, it will be interesting to see whether there are some repercussions for Yankee hitters.

The hit batter put runners on first and second for Mike Lowell, the RBI machine. But Chamberlain employed his curveball with great success against Lowell, dropping a deuce for a called strike three. Following the punchout, Chamberlain pumped his fists and shouted a she headed towards the Yankees dugout.

With 97 pitches, Chamberlain’s night may now be over. If so, despite the fact that he has allowed four runs, this has been in all likelihood his most impressive outing of the year in terms of pure stuff. He has shown an ability to throw strikes with four pitches, and has reclaimed his mid-90s heat. That bodes well for Chamberlain and the Yankees, and poorly for the rest of the American League.


There are some interesting dynamics at work in the bottom of the fifth, one inning after Joba Chamberlain drilled Jason Bay with a pitch. Josh Beckett believes in protecting his teammates when they are hit by sending a fastball into the ribs of an opponent. But the opportunity may not exist to enact that code of justice.

The Sox are clinging to a one-run lead, and all baserunners represent a threat to that margin. Moreover, Beckett has already been suspended once this year for firing at the head of Bobby Abreu, and so the potential exists for another suspension should he be seen as intentionally drumming a Yankee tonight.

Perhaps with that in mind — as well as the fact that he needs to get deeper into today’s game — Beckett focused on retiring the Yankees in the fifth, rather than drilling them. He got Derek Jeter to ground out to short and retired Johnny Damon on a wicked liner to right for the first two outs.

Beckett then got ahead of Mark Teixeira, working to 1-2, but the first baseman dribbled a check-swing single down the third-base line. Beckett remained unperturbed, retiring Hideki Matsui on a soft liner to mid-range center field to retire the side. His pitch count is around 85, so has at least one more inning.


4th inning: Chamberlain dominates, Ellsbury leaves

05.05.09 at 8:21 pm ET
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Two things are at work now, as Joba Chamberlain is mowing down the Red Sox with the sort of ruthlessness that the Yankees sought when they moved him to the rotation:

1) There appears to be a bit of a liberal interpretation of the outer edge of the strike zone by home-plate ump Mike DMuro, and New York is wisely exploiting it.
2) Chamberlain’s three-pitch mix of a 93-94 mph fastball, a slider and a diving changeup has disrupted the timing of Sox hitters and allowing Chamberlain to blitz through them.

Chamberlain struck out the side in the fourth, and now has seven punchouts in his last three innings. He got J.D. Drew looking at a changeup that dropped over the outside corner, caught Jeff Bailey off guard with a 93 mph fastball and then, after issuing a two-out walk to Jason Varitek, blew a chest-high 94 mph fastball past Nick Green, who swung and missed to end the inning.



Josh Beckett‘s hold on a one-run lead appears tenuous at all times. As was the case against Tampa Bay, the outcomes are of the all-or-nothing variety — strikeouts or hard contact.

That pattern continued to prevail in the fourth. Beckett caught Nick Swisher looking at a curveball, but then allowed a hard double to right by Melky Cabrera. Cabrera may have gotten a bit greedy on a ball that bounced into the corner, chugging towards third. A perfect relay from J.D. Drew in right to second baseman Dustin Pedroia to third baseman Mike Lowell arrived just before Cabrera at third — at least in the estimation of third-base ump Jerry Meals, who called Cabrera out. Replays showed that he may have been safe.

That out proved huge, since Ramiro Pena followed with what should have been an inning-ending grounder to first baseman Jeff Bailey. Bailey booted the ball for a two-base error on which Cabrera would have scored easily. Instead, Beckett rang up Jose Molina on a full-count curveball for his fourth strikeout in as many innings.


3rd inning: Beckett finds trouble again

05.05.09 at 7:59 pm ET
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Dustin Pedroia led off the second with a dribbler that Joba Chamberlain could not field. The ball squirted away from Chamberlain’s glove for Pedroia’s fourth infield hit of the year, bringing the second baseman into a tie with Jason Bay for the second-most infield hits on the club.

Chamberlain continued to show a nice collection of pitches, however, getting David Ortiz to strike out on a changeup (the second swing-and-miss of the at-bat, following a whiff at a passing two-seamer that dropped off the outside corner). He then caught Jason Bay looking at a slider for a called third strike, the big right-hander’s fourth strikeout in the last six batters. Through the first eight outs of this game, Chamberlain has twice as many strikeouts (4 to 2) as he had in his last outing against the Sox, which covered 16 outs.

Chamberlain finished the inning by getting Mike Lowell to ground to third on a changeup. Few right-handed pitchers feel confident throwing a change to a right-handed hitter, since the break of the off-speed pitch runs towards the batter. But Chamberlain exhibited few qualms about doing so, to good effect. He is now humming along with three pitches at his disposal, and so the Sox may have been fortunate / wise to jump on his in the first, before he had found his rhythm.


A seemingly harmless fly ball spawned another big inning given up by Josh Beckett. Jose Molina, the Yankees‘ starting catcher with Jorge Posada on the D.L. for at least two weeks with a right hamstring strain, dumped a single to shallow center that landed just out of reach of a diving Jacoby Ellsbury.

That harmless start turned into big trouble quickly for Beckett, who gave up a single to right by Derek Jeter (curve). With runners on first and second, Beckett left a first-pitch fastball (perhaps a two-seamer meant to run off the outside corner) a bit too far up to Johnny Damon. The former Sox crushed his second homer in as many days off a Boston pitcher, his three-run shot landing in the second deck above the right-field grandstand. Beckett, who had not given up any homers in his first three starts of the year, has now allowed six in his last three outings.

Beckett recovered to retire the side, getting Mark Teixeira to punch out once again on a curveball, then getting Hideki Matsui on a fly to shallow left that Mike Lowell — showing no lingering effects from his hip surgery — raced back to catch on the run. Lowell then showed impressive lateral range by gloving a Robinson Cano smash to third for the final out.

Beckett has now alowed 18 runs in his last 12.2 innings.


2nd inning: Justice and Nick Swisher

05.05.09 at 7:49 pm ET
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Joba Chamberlain‘s stuff appears to have picked up in the second inning. His fastball, which did not eclipse 91 mph in the first, is at 92-93 in the second. That, in turn, is making it more difficult for Sox hitters to adjust to his off-speed stuff.

Chamberlain struck out Jason Varitek on three straight fastballs, all called strikes on the outside corner. He then punched out Nick Green (after falling behind 3-1) on a full count slider, and completed his tidy, 1-2-3 inning when he got Jacoby Ellsbury to fly to shallow right on a 93 mph fastball.


Photo day in spring training can lead to some funny outcomes for the course of a full year. For instance, Kevin Youkilis sported the “Youk-Fu” for roughly three days this spring, but the image will follow him for the rest of the year, even though it represents a moment of whimsy.

The Nick Swisher photo that glares out from the Yankee Stadium scoreboard is a rather daunting one, the New York right-fielder looking like he is filled with rage while being captured by the lens for a mug shot. (Sorry – no photo readily available.) And so, perhaps, Josh Beckett was able to fancy himself a sheriff bringing a criminal to justice when he got Swisher to pop out to center.

Beckett then gave up a single to center (his third hit allowed in two innings) to Melky Cabrera, but Beckett wiped out the threat by getting third baseman Ramiro Pena to bounce a curveball to Jeff Bailey at first. Bailey stepped on the bag, then fired to second, where Nick Green slapped the tag on Cabrera to complete the 3-6 double play.

The Yankees are now 1-for-4 with runners on base against Beckett, who has thrown a relatively modest 32 pitches through two.


Daisuke: ‘I think I’m ready to pitch in a game’

05.05.09 at 7:36 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Speaking after throwing 47 pitches (29 strikes) for the Pawtucket Red Sox against the Toledo Mud Hens — going 2 2/3 innings, giving up two hits, two walks, and no runs while striking out five — Daisuke Matsuzaka spoke in the McCoy Stadium home team’s weight room following his first rehab start …

(Did everything feel good) “Despite the weather and the cold I feel like I was able to prepare for the game with my normal routine. I think that was biggest thing today, to start out with that same feeling.”

“I think I’m ready to pitch in a game” (Right now?) “I wouldn’t got so far to say I don’t need any rehab starts but I feel physically ready, by that I’m ready to go through whatever rehab program that’s handed to me. So health-wise I have no problems at all.”

(Command?) “I’m not going to get too caught up in the actual content of my pitching too much tonight. I think I just wanted to focus on the fact I was able to pitch in a game.”

(What could you do tonight that you couldn’t do in your last start in Oakland) “The life on the ball was much better today.”

(Second inning) “For me today I wasn’t going to focus too much on the content on my pitching so I haven’t thought about it too much. I followed the signs that were put out there for me and I got the outs.”

(How did fastball feel?) “Compared to my last start in Oakland, in terms of velocity and life they were much better today.”

(Walks a result of mound feeling a little soft) “I had a hard time getting the mud off of my cleats with the tool out there, so it was a little bit slippery. It bothered me a tiny little bit, but overall it wasn’t too bad.”

(Did you feel like you could let go with everything you had) “I physically felt ready to get after it. I don’t think I went all the way. I held back a little bit and what that says to me is that physically I’m back to normal.”

“I think even with those things considered, facing hitters in a game situation requires a little different mentality. But I think with the few minor league starts I have left I can improve on those points.”

(Next start?) “I think I’m back to the five-day rotation, but I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be pitching.”

(Do you know how many more rehab starts) “Please don’t ask me that question … I don’t know the answer.”

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1st Inning: Sox jump on Chamberlain

05.05.09 at 7:22 pm ET
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Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain is on the hill for New York. His stuff appeared pretty mediocre when he pitched at Fenway Park about 10 days ago, with his fastball sitting at 91-93 mph. He struck out just two Red Sox, and spent most of the game trying to avoid calamity. He did just that thanks to four double-play balls, a career high.

Chamberlain followed that outing (5.1 innings, 2 runs, 1 earned, no decision) with a farm more dominating one against the Tigers, striking out a season-high six in seven innings, with his fastball ticking up to 95 mph.

Tonight, he seemed to be searching for velocity in the first, and the Sox did not permit him the wiggle room that he found in his last outing against them, jumping on him for five straight hits and four runs before a single out was recorded.

Chamblerain started by throwing four fastballs to Jacoby Ellsbury, all 89-90 mph on the Yankees Stadium scoreboard. Ellsbury whacked the fourth back through the box (and off the heel of Chamberlain’s cleat) for a single to center. The fleet centerfielder wasted no time in putting himself in scoring position, stealing second on Chamberlain’s first pitch to Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia then bounced a slider for a single through the hole between third and short. Ellsbury had to hold initially to make sure that Derek Jeter didn’t glove the ball, and so advanced only as far as third. That became irrelevant, when David Ortiz followed by whacking a slider into center for an RBI single.

A couple noteworthy elements:

1) Chamberlain is leaning heavily on his slider this inning, which suggests he is not comfortable working off of a fastball that seems to lack life.

2) Ortiz is starting to feel good about himself at the plate.

After he reached base four times on Monday with two doubles and two walks, Ortiz left the park with a feeling of some accomplishment.

“I finally felt like I did something,” he said before today’s game.

His teammates saw something more dramatic.

“You can tell he found something,” said Julio Lugo. “You can tell he’€™s feeling better ‘€“ it’€™s a friend of mine who is feeling better.”

Another man who is feeling good about himself is Jason Bay. Bay jumped on a 91 mph fastball / cookie, parking a three-run homer just into the first row of seats to give the Sox a 4-0 lead.

Chamberlain then gave up a lined single to Mike Lowell, but bounced back to get J.D. Drew on a liner to right and a hard-hit comebacker for a 1-4-3 double play from Jeff Bailey (starting in place of Kevin Youkilis).

Chamberlain has yet to get a single swing and miss in the first. He threw 23 pitches, and was hammered.


Josh Beckett has easy 94-95 mph velocity out of the gate, but he also has a curveball that he feels good about using as an out pitch.

After starting with five straight fastballs against Derek Jeter, Beckett dropped a curve to retire the Yankees’ shortstop on a fly to right. Johnny Damon then lined a two-seamer into left for a base hit, but Beckett pounded Mark Teixeira with curveballs. On his fourth hook of the five-pitch at-bat, the Yankees’ slugger swung over the top of the offering for Beckett’s first strikeout of the night.

Beckett then left a fastball up to Hideki Matsui, who lined it sharply to right, but bounced back to get Robinson Cano to pop to second. No small feat, that: Cano has crushed Beckett over the years, hitting .364 with a .432 OBP and .667 slugging mark and two homers prior to today.

Worth noting: the Yankees are now 1-for-3 with runners on base against Beckett tonight, a situation in which he’s struggled this year.


Daisuke’s done

05.05.09 at 7:00 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka finished his rehab outing at McCoy Stadium having thrown 47 pitches (29 strikes). He left after hitting Toledo’s Brent Cleven, leaving with runners on first and second. and two outs. Matsuzaka topped out at 93 mph while consistently throwing his fastball between 89-91 mph. He did manage to get 12 swings and misses. 

Matsuzaka’s final line read: 2.2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, five strikeouts.

He began the third inning with back-to-back strikeouts, both finished off on swings and misses. Matsuzaka proceeded to allow a first-pitch infield single to Wilkin Ramirez before hitting Cleven. Reliever Charlie Zink standed the runner for the starter.


third inning having thrown a total of xxx pitches, with his fastball topping out at 93 mph (a swinging third strike by Brent Dlugach).

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Daisuke’s second inning

05.05.09 at 6:47 pm ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka ran into some trouble in the second, loading the bases with nobody out. But, true to his form of a year ago, he got out of the jam with a swing and miss strikeout and a grounder back to the mound. Matsuzaka finished the frame throwing 23 pitches, giving him a total of 33 (20 strikes). Matsuzaka, in case you forgot, didn’t allow a hit in 14 bases-loaded at-bats last season.

Matsuzaka’s hardest pitch was a 92 mph fastball to Dusty Ryan, leading to a swing and miss and the inning’s second out. 

Matsuzaka had  started the inning by allowing a second-pitch single to Brent Cleven, a right-handed hitter. The hurler had allowed seven hits and two walks in 14 instances against righties this season with the Red Sox.  Matsuzaka followed with a six-pitch walk to Mike Hessman and a six-pitch free pass to Don Kelly.

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Youkilis blames “ridiculous” handling of rain delay for discomfort

05.05.09 at 6:33 pm ET
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Kevin Youkilis clarified that the injury that forced him out of Monday night’s game in the sixth inning, and that has him out of the starting delay, is a “left side” rather than a back injury. He described the condition as one of tightness, and said that he’s been dealing with it for a couple of weeks. It is unrelated to getting hit by two pitches in roughly the same spot on the back, just below the shoulder, in a four-day span, and in fact the left side issue precedes those two plunkings.

Youkilis is hopeful that he will be able to return to the lineup tomorrow, though he could not say that he was certain about that prospect.

‘€œI don’€™t know (about his availability beyond Tuesday),” said Youkilis. “Tonight, not being in the starting lineup, tomorrow, hopefully I can go. That’€™s what you hope for. Hopefully my body will heal real quick and I’€™ll be ready to go tomorrow.’€

Youkilis said that the injury is exacerbated at different times, with no single type of activity more responsible than others for his physical discomfort.

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Daisuke’s first inning

05.05.09 at 6:22 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Pitching in a short-sleeved shirt on a 50 degree night, Daisuke Matsuzaka needed just 10 pitches to retire the Toledo Mud Hens in order in the first inning of his rehab start, at McCoy Stadium.

Matsuzaka struck out the first two hitters, lefty hitter Will Rhymes and righty Brent Dlugach — both swinging on fastballs — before getting No. 3 hitter Wilkin Ramirez on a pop-up to first base. The hurler threw six strikes, getting four swings and misses. All but two of his offerings were fastballs, with the heater topping out at 91 mph.

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