By Jon Lane
The majority of Yankees fans got their wish Monday night. Joba Chamberlain pitched in the eighth inning.
Those in the minority reigned supreme over water coolers and caffeine fixes. Joba Chamberlain pitched eight superlative innings to defeat the Indians, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. In between, he made a diving catch that would have made the late Kirby Puckett blush. In the end, he swatted away those annoying midges like gnats, kept his velocity in the high 90s (97 MPH in that eighth inning) and improved to 3-1 while lowering his ERA to 3.71. His eight innings of work – and great ones at that – were a career high and the first time Chamberlain went that long since a Single-A game in 2006.
Yep, put him in the bullpen. Take a 23-year-old potential franchise pitcher who neutralized the Tribe with everything in his arsenal and relegate him to one inning and three outs. That’s exactly what the Twins did with Johan Santana after in 2002 he led the Majors with 15 wild pitches.
Oh wait. I’m sorry. I erred. The Twins showed something wholly fickle in this town – patience while allowing evolution to take its course. They transitioned Santana into their rotation in 2003 after he spent four months as a reliever. He won his last eight decisions and pitched Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees. You know the rest of his story.
Yet the voices still ring loud. Heaven forbid Chamberlain gets into a jam by walking a batter or allowing a base hit, he’s a failure as a starting pitcher. The next time he gets lit up – and he will because Santana and all the great ones get lit up – we’ll have to continue to endure this.
Here’s something refreshing: The Yankees right now have SIX legitimate starting pitchers. Is that a problem? Really? Can you honestly have enough starting pitching? If you believe that you must be president of the Sidney Ponson Fan Club. Just wait until 2010 when Ian Kennedy is healthy. This is all part of building a program, folks.
Thanks mainly to Joba the starter, the Yankees completed a 5-2 road trip and are winners of 15 out of 19. They lead the AL East by one game and open a seven-game homestand tonight against the Texas Rangers (YES HD, 7 p.m.). Chamberlain starts again Saturday against the reeling Rays.
The Yankees set a Major League record Monday night as they played their 18th consecutive game without an error (they were tied with the Red Sox, who played 17 straight error-free from June 11-30, 2006). The Yankees are 14-4 during this streak and a big part of it has been Mark Teixeira and his perfect fielding percentage. By no coincidence, Derek Jeter’s clip stands at .990 with only two errors, on pace for his best totals of his career.
And by the way, Teixeira’s hitting streak is at 14 games. You think the Red Sox executive offices are under siege for not doing whatever it took to bring him to New England?
Jeter’s single in the third was the 2,600th hit of his career