Commentary

Joba takes blame for Yanks' meltdown

Updated: May 19, 2010, 9:19 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Joba Chamberlain was out of control on Tuesday night. By early Wednesday morning, when he addressed the media, he finally found some accuracy. He was right when he assessed who deserved the most blame for the Yankees' loss to the Red Sox.

"This is my loss, not anyone else's," said Chamberlain, who, like the rest of the Yankees, was a little bleary-eyed early Wednesday after a nearly one-hour rain delay preceded a four-plus-hour, 7-6 loss to the Red Sox.

In the official records, Mariano Rivera took the loss and Marcus Thames went from hero to zero in 24 hours by dropping a ninth-inning fly ball, but Chamberlain is the one who deserved -- and gave himself -- the most blame.

[+] EnlargeJoba Chamberlain
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesJoba Chamberlain said he had 'no feel for the strike zone' after surrendering four runs in an inning of work Tuesday.

Chamberlain started the eighth, trying to protect a four-run eighth-inning lead. He ended it, walking off the mound in a 5-5 game.

Chamberlain said he made "terrible" pitches. He was right about that. He said he had "no feel for the strike zone." He was right about that. And, finally, he said, "That was on me." He wasn't totally right about that.

Chamberlain's wounds were mostly self-inflicted, but it wasn't entirely his fault. If Alex Rodriguez doesn't make a bad throw on Marco Scutaro's grounder to begin the eighth or if first-base ump Jeff Nelson makes a different call, looking at Mark Teixeira stretch at first base on the play, then maybe Chamberlain escapes without blowing CC Sabathia's four-run lead.

Still, ultimately, here was the problem: Chamberlain couldn't find the plate. After the first two batters of the inning reached base, Chamberlain fell behind each of the next four Red Sox.

"It comes down to location of pitches," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

It comes down to his fastball, which he often can't throw it for strikes. On Tuesday night, he threw 20 fastballs and half of them were balls.

That is Chamberlain right now as a setup man. One day, he is tantalizingly great, looking as if he will one day succeed Rivera and move up a spot into the ninth. The next, he looks like he did on Tuesday -- inconsistent. That is why his ERA is nearly 5 in his 18 1/3 innings.

Even when Chamberlain did get ahead, he couldn't put away the Red Sox. Following the error by A-Rod, Chamberlain immediately had the advantage over the second batter of the inning, Dustin Pedroia, going up 0-2 before Pedroia bounced a single to right.

Then, the wildness took over. It might even have been worse if not for a curious choice by Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

First, though, J.D. Drew drove a 3-1 fastball to left to trim the lead to three runs. Next, Kevin Youkilis hit a 1-0 fastball for a soft, bloop single to right. Two runs scored, which cut the Yankees' lead to one.

Chamberlain became even wilder against Victor Martinez, throwing three straight balls. Inexplicably, Francona had Martinez swinging on a 3-0 count. Francona was looking for the go-ahead long ball, but instead he got a groundout.

Chamberlain couldn't take advantage of the break. He fell behind David Ortiz 3-1 and then Ortiz unloaded on an 87 mph slider, crushing it off the right-center-field wall. The long single tied the game 5-5. Finally, Chamberlain ended the inning with a groundout as the game crept past midnight. He walked off the mound to boos.

"They have the right," Chamberlain said.

To start the game, Sabathia cruised. To end it, Rivera and Thames combined to fumble it away. But Chamberlain was right. When you look to assess blame for Tuesday's loss, he was the biggest culprit of them all.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

More from ESPNNewYork.com

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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