Joba Chamberlain was asked to show he deserves a place in the Yankees' post-season pitching plans and the young right-hander responded with his best game in almost two months as New York beat Boston 9-5 on Friday. The hard-throwing Chamberlain, who turned 24 on Wednesday, was coming off a string of poor outings, including a three-inning stint against Seattle on his last time out in which he yielded seven runs.
A frank discussion with the manager Joe Girardi helped turn him around. "Joe said: 'You have to step up,'" the pitcher recalled. "It's just a challenge. "As a man, you take a challenge and you can do two things with it - either step up or you run away from it, and I've never run away from anything in my life and I'm not going to start now." Concerned that throwing too many innings in his first full year as a starter might damage the promising hurler's arm, the New York management have strictly limited his usage in what has come to be known as the "Joba rules."
Over the last five weeks he has been kept to a maximum of three or four innings per outing but the results have been disturbing. Now, with the post-season just around the corner, the reins are being removed and Chamberlain is being allowed to throw a normal number of pitches for a starter. "This is an important time of the year," Girardi said. "We told him we needed him to step up and he did. "I wouldn't say we read him the riot act. We just had a discussion that we knew he was capable of pitching better and that we needed to see him pitch better."
Girardi gave Chamberlain high grades for his outing, in which he retired the first 11 Boston batters. "He just went out and threw the ball the way he is capable of throwing. I thought he threw a great game," said the manager. "He attacked, he attacked, he attacked." Chamberlain went six innings and tossed 86 pitches in his longest appearance in six weeks and improved to 9-6. "You're challenged, and that's the way it should be. That makes our team better, makes us individuals better.
"We looked at each other in the eye, man to man," he said about the challenge from Girardi. "Try to be better, to make this team better." Chamberlain gave up five hits and three runs before a sell-out crowd of 48,449. Alex Rodriguez homered, drove in four runs and stole three bases in support of Chamberlain in the victory. New York, who have already qualified for the post-season, extended their American League (AL) East lead over Boston to six and a half games with the triumph.
Boston, however, still hold a comfortable seven-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL wild card chase. Despite the defeat, the Red Sox were relieved that their starter Jon Lester escaped serious injury after being hit by a line drive in the third inning. Lester, battered for eight hits and five runs in just two and a third innings, crumpled to the ground after being struck above his right knee by a line-drive smash by Melky Cabrera.
The left-hander, 14-8 this season, lay on the ground for several minutes before limping off the field. Boston later said that X-rays were negative on any fracture. "When it first happened, it sounded and looked terrible," the Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He actually might be right on turn for his next start." * Reuters