Tagged: Brett Tomko

Yankees Built Great Bullpen As Season Progressed


Closer: Mariano Rivera
Set-Up Man: Phil Hughes
Lefthander: Phil Coke
Righthander: Brian Bruney
Long Man: Alfredo Aceves


David Robertson
Chad Gaudin
Jonathan Albaladejo
Damaso Marte
Edwar Ramirez
Mark Melancon
Brett Tomko
Jose Veras
Steven Jackson
Anthony Claggett

In the first half of the season, the New York Yankees bullpen was very much a work in progress. By the end of the season it was a major strength of the team.
Give some credit for that to pitching coach Dave Eiland and manager Joe Girardi.
Spring training opened with many doubts about the Yankees’ bullpen. There were concerns about the offseason shoulder surgery on Mariano Rivera. There were doubts the Yankees had anyone who could get the ball to Rivera in the ninth. There also were questions on why no major moves were made when the bullpen failed so badly in 2008.
The Yankees broke camp with seven relievers: Rivera, Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Damaso Marte and Jonathan Albaladejo. Girardi had an audition for a long reliever in the spring between Dan Giese, Brett Tomko and Alfredo Aceves but chose Albaladejo for the second season in a row as his final addition to the 2009 pen. The team released Giese and Aceves and Tomko were sent to Triple A.
But April was not kind to this group. 
The Yankees starting rotation did not pitch real well as a group and the team’s offense was missing Alex Rodriguez recovering from hip surgery. Still, the bullpen was contributing to that 13-15 record the Yankees had on May 8 when Rodriguez returned.
Six of the team’s 15 losses were attributable to the bullpen. Phil Coke lost two and Albaladejo, Veras, Marte and Rivera each lost one. 
Eiland and Girardi decided that the bullpen could be better and they started looking for replacements for some of the original seven down on the farm.
Bruney, who looked to be the chosen one as the bridge to Rivera, pitched brilliantly in April until he started having issues with his right elbow. He was placed on the disabled list.
Marte, who had come up with shoulder problems after pitching in the World Baseball Classic, proved that he was not completely recovered from the injury and he was placed on the disabled list also a day after Bruney.
Eiland and Girardi opted for young righthander David Robertson and former starter Alfredo Aceves as bullpen replacements for Bruney and Marte. Tomko was later called up and replaced Robertson in the mix.
But in May, the Yankees continued to have problems with some members of the bullpen. The Yankees chose to option Ramirez back to Triple A on May 19 when Bruney was activated. But Bruney lasted only one appearance before he went back on the disabled list on May 26 and Robertson was recalled again.
On June 16, the Yankees finally decided to designate Veras for assignment for his recurring problems with finding the strike zone. Yankee fans who taken to booing Veras as much as former reliever Kyle Farnsworth, were pleased by the move. Bruney was activated again to replace Veras on the roster.
Meanwhile, the Yankees had called up Phil Hughes to replace Chien-Ming Wang as a starter in the rotation and he did start seven games from April 28 through May 31 with some spotty success. He was 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA.
Wang returned to the rotation and Hughes was shifted to the bullpen — temporarily. The idea was to keep Hughes around just in case Wang needed help out of the bullpen as he built up his arm strength.
But Wang instead landed back on the DL and this time it would be for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. However, rather then use Hughes as a starter, the Yankees decided to keep him there.
It was a great move too because Hughes became the bridge to Rivera that Bruney could not be after his elbow injury. Many Yankee fans circle May 8 when Rodriguez returned as the third baseman for the Yankees climb back into contention in the American League East race.
But you also may want to circle July 3. That is the first time Hughes was used in the eighth inning as the bridge to Rivera. He has had that role ever since and the Yankees bullpen has been sensational from June through September.
The Yankees ran off a 23-8 record from May 8 to June 6 and the bullpen lost only four of those games: Tomko, Aceves, Coke and Rivera.
But from June 6 on, the Yankees bullpen was nearly flawless. From that date on June 6 through July 10 the Yankees were 23-15. The bullpen lost only two of those games.
Tomko and young righthander Mark Melancon came in to pitch early and ended up taking the loss in those games.
The new bullpen cast of Tomko, Robertson, Aceves and Hughes added to holdovers Bruney, Coke and Rivera was proving to be effective. But Bruney did struggle to regain his form after his two stints on the disabled list.
Brian Cashman also made his worst decision of 2009 on July 21. He designated Tomko for assignment and decided to go along with Girardi’s choice and allow Sergio Mitre to become the replacement for Wang after the All-Star break. Mitre failed miserably as a fifth starter and Tomko recorded a 4-1 record with a  2.95 ERA for Oakland. Oops!
But the bullpen came on strong after the All-Star break. The team was 51-37 at the break and was 52-22 after the break. The bullpen lost only five of those 22 games:
Hughes lost one on July 30 and Robertson lost another the next night. Marte lost a game on Sept. 11 and another on Sept. 30. Rivera lost one on Sept 18 to the Mariners on Ichiro’s two-run blast in the ninth to end his consecutive saves streak at career-best 36 straight.
That was it. 
Look at the won-loss records of those in the bullpen:
Aceves 10-1
Hughes 5-1
Albaladejo 5-1
Bruney 5-0
Coke 4-3
Rivera 3-3
Robertson 2-1
Marte 1-3
Melancon 0-1
They combined for a record of 35-13 for a .729 wining percentage. The high number decisions was due to some early departures by Yankee starters and the Yankees’ penchant for coming back to win games late. The team had 15 walkoff wins this season and they also lead the league in come-from-behind victories.
The bullpen was a large part of the reason why.
Rivera led the way with a 1.76 ERA and 44 saves in 46 tries.
But, Hughes actually was even better with a 1.40 ERA out of the bullpen with 65 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings.
Aceves’ 3.54 ERA is deceiving because he gave up nine runs over six innings in three consecutive appearances in August when he was experiencing fatigue in his arm. He also gave up  three earned runs in 3 1/3 innings in a spot start July 9.
But in his 42 relief appearances this season, Aceves held the opposition scoreless in 25 of them. He gave up only one run in another eight games. So Aceves certainly earned Girardi’s trust as long r
eliever this season.
Coke was also better than his 4.50 ERA might indicate. Coke did pitch poorly in April with his ERA for the month reaching 5.73. But on July 4 Coke had lowered his season ERA to a season low 2.97.
But on July 11, Coke gave four runs in a relief appearance against the Angels in Anaheim and  on Aug. 1 he was roughed up for six runs by the White Sox in Chicago. Between those two outings, Coke’s ERA jumped back to 4.98.
In his last 23 appearances of the season he was scored upon in only three and all of those were in August. 
Bruney also has shown improvement since his ERA ballooned to 6.16 on July 29. In August and September combined, Bruney pitched in 21 games and 20 innings with an ERA of 1.80 and 13 strikeouts. He has also walked 13 batters in those 20 innings, which is still a concern. But Girardi thinks Bruney can contribute and he may earn a postseason spot in the bullpen.
Robertson was headed for true stardom this season before a balky elbow in September shelved him until the final week of the season. Robertson drew raves because of his ability to strike out batters despite not having a mid-90s fastball. 
In just 43 2/3 innings pitched this season, Robertson has fanned 63 batters, a rate higher than Hughes and Rivera. He also has showed he can hold a lead in the middle innings.  He was unscored upon in 32 of 45 appearances and in his final 17 appearances he did not give up a run in 14 of those.
If Robertson’s two appearances in the final series against the Tampa Bay Rays shows Eiland and Girardi he is healthy he could supplant Bruney on the postseason roster.
Marte likely will make the roster simply because he adds another lefthander to the bullpen besides Coke. Marte is 1-3 with a 9.45 ERA. But to be fair, Marte did pitch most of the early season with a bad shoulder and spent most of the rest of the season trying to rehab it.
If you throw out a dreadful four-run pounding in 1/3 of an inning at home against the Orioles on Sept. 11, Marte actually had a 1.17 ERA from Aug. 21 until the end of the season and he was effective against lefthanded hitters.
In the first half of the 2009 season, I gave this bullpen a overall grade of C+ because of the struggles of Veras and Ramirez and injuries to Marte and Bruney.
But with the ascension from the minors of Aceves and Robertson and the addition of Hughes and the recovery of Marte and Bruney, the bullpen — including Coke and the always sensational Rivera — just kept getting better and better as the season wore on.
This corps kept the Yankees in games so they could come back and they rarely lost leads in the late innings and allowed the Yankees to hold the leads that they did earn. So you have to give this bullpen an A+ for the second half of the season.
I would give it an overall grade of B+ only because of the early problems that later were worked out and the uncertainty about Bruney and Marte heading into the playoffs. 
But one thing is for sure. The Twins will not like facing this bullpen anyway. Adding Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen mix only makes it that much deeper for the American League Division Series. This bullpen is simply the backbone of this team right now.


Posada’s Walk-Off RBI Single Lifts Yankees in 12th

YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 5 (12 Innings)

The Fourth of July at Yankee Stadium holds many memorable moments of fireworks. 
Jorge Posada added to that lore with a walk-off RBI single in the 12th inning to give the New York Yankees a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
Posada, who had not started the past two games with a sore left thumb, gave the Yankees their ninth victory in their last 10 games. Coupled with the Boston Red Sox 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees victory has drawn them to within one game of the American League East leaders.
The Yankees are also a season-high 14 games above .500 this season.
“The win is the most important thing,” said Posada. “The bullpen did an amazing job of keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to win the game and have the last at-bat.”
The bottom of the 12th inning opened with Mark Teixeira smashing a ball down the first-base line that struck the first-base bag and bounded over the head of Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay and into rightfield for a double.
Jays reliever Shawn Camp (0-4) opted to walk Alex Rodriguez, his third walk of the game and his second intentional walk. The strategy appeared to pay off because Robinson Cano opted to bunt a 3-0 pitch and he did not get it out far enough and allowed catcher Raul Chavez to throw Teixeira out at third for a fielder’s choice.
Cano actually missed the sign and was not supposed to bunt the 3-0 pitch.

“Missed signs happen,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “Unfortunately, you don’t want them to happen in those situations. But Robbie knows he missed it, and I’m sure it will never happen again.”

Cano struggled throughout the game and may have left his hitting fifth in the lineup in jeopardy with a woeful 0 for 6 performance at the plate. He did not hit a ball out of the infield and he left a total of 10 men on base. He is 0 for his past 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Posada, however, rescued Cano by hitting a 1-1 change-up from Camp into center to score Rodriguez with the winning run.
Brett Tomko (1-2), the seventh Yankee pitcher of the day, pitched a perfect top of the 12th inning to pick up the victory.
The Yankees bullpen had a shaky start but did hold the Blue Jays scoreless from the seventh inning on. Brian Bruney, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Phil Coke and Tomko combined for six innings, giving up just three hits and two walks and no runs.
The Yankees, however, do have a major concern with starter Chien-Ming Wang, who left the game in the top of the sixth inning in what was termed a strain of the right shoulder. Wang entered the inning with a 3-2 lead.
But, Marco Scutaro greeted him with a double down the leftfield line. After Wang retired Aaron Hill on an infield grounder, Adam Lind connected on a 0-1 pitch and put the ball over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center for his 17th home run of the season. That gave the Jays a 4-3 lead.
When Wang threw a ball to Scott Rolen, Posada signaled to Yankees manager Joe Girardi that something was wrong with the righthander. Wang walked off the field and immediately was given an MRI exam at a nearby hospital.
Wang later told reporters that he felt pain on the pitch to Lind and, as a result, the pitch was left up in the zone. Posada knew something was wrong when Wang’s next pitch, a sinker, registered 86 mph and immediately alerted Girardi.
The MRI revealed a mild right shoulder strain and bursitis and it means that Wang likely will have to be placed on the 15-day disabled list. It not clear if Wang will require surgery or just rest. Wang has had nothing but problems since he suffered a right foot sprain running the bases in Houston last June.
Wang missed the rest of last season and started this season with three nightmare starts that forced the Yankees to have to place him on the disabled list with weakened hip joints. After a period to rehab his legs Wang was activated but pitched only in relief early.
Wang was only making his sixth start since he was activated from the disabled list. The outing also was by far his best, despite the home run in the sixth inning. Wang pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up six hits, one walk and fanned one batter.
But the key was the outs Wang recorded. His sinker was working. Wang induced 11 ground ball outs among the 16 outs he registered. Now the Yankees will have to find a replacement starter for Wang on Thursday.
“The win is great,” Girardi told MLB.com. “Obviously, you don’t ever want to lose anyone. I thought today was probably his best start — that’s the unfortunate thing.”

“He was spotting all of his pitches and getting a lot of ground-ball outs,” Posada told MLB.com. “Even the base hits were ground balls. The only pitch he left up was the home run to Lind, but other than that, everything was down.”

With Wang unable to continue Girardi summoned David Robertson form the bullpen and he struggled immediately with his control. He walked both Scott Rolen and Overbay. After striking out Vernon Wells, Alex Rios singled to left-center to score Rolen to make it 5-3.
Johnny Damon rescued Robertson and the rest of the Yankees in the seventh inning. After Derek Jeter singled to lead off the inning against Roy Halladay, Damon followed with a long blast to the right-field bleachers to tie the game at 5. It was Damon’s 16th home run of the year and the third Yankee home run off the normally sharp Halladay.
Damon is one hitter who Halladay has historically had trouble with. Damon’s hit now gives him a .348 average (30 for 86) off the All-Star righthander.
Halladay did pitch seven innings but he was rocked for nine hits, three walks and five runs. He had only walked 14 batters coming into the game. He also came into the game with a 10-2 record and 2.56 ERA and 16-5 lifetime record against the Yankees.
“When he’s on, you’re not going to score many runs,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “Maybe one or two, if you’re lucky. He probably didn’t have his best stuff today, but he was still good.”
But Alex Rodriguez did reach Halladay for an RBI single in the first inning. Hideki Matsui hit a solo home run in the second inning and Posada nicked Halladay for another solo blast in the fourth.
The Blue Jays’ only other scoring frame came in the second inning when Wang walked Overbay and Vernon Wells hit a bloop ground-rule double to right. Rios followed with a single up the middle to score both runners.
The Yankees have now won the first two games of the four-game series with their division rivals from Toronto. They can clinch the four-game series Sunday afternoon with Joba Chamberlain (4-2, 3.89 ERA) pitching for the Yankees.
He will face 23-year-old lefthander Brett Cecil (2-1, 509 ERA). In his last start on June 25 Cecil lasted only three innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He gave up five runs on nine hits, including four first-inning doubles. 
Chamberlain is having problems of his own in getting beyond the sixth inning. In his last start against Seattle he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. He has pitched past the sixth inning only three times this season. But he has been able to keep the Yankees in games by giving up more than three earned runs only twice this season and the Yankees are 10-5 in his starts.
Gametime is 1:05 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Robinson Cano is the second leading Yankees hitter this season, batting an even. 300, which trails only Derek Jeter at .308. However, Cano has struggled mightily with runners on base (.245) and runners in scoring position (.198). With the bases empty Cano is hitting .337. Teams are starting to walk to Rodriguez in order to pitch to Cano. Jays manager Cito Gaston had his pitchers walk Alex Rodriguez intentionally twice on Saturday to pitch to Cano with runners on base . . . The Yankees honored the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s stirring “Luckiest Man” speech before the game Saturday. It was all part of MLB’s effort to raise awareness about ALS and raise money for research.

CC Shows Teammates, Mets He’s Just Fine


Manager Joe Girardi was nervous about CC Sabathia before his start against the New York Mets on Friday night.
But it did not take him long to relax as Sabathia baffled the Mets for seven strong innings and he even added a run-scoring single as the New York Yankees routed their injury-depleted crosstown rivals 9-1 in the first Subway Series game to be played at Citi Field.
Sabathia had lasted only 1 1/3 innings and 28 pitches in his last outing against the Florida Marlins before Jorge Posada insisted their was something wrong with the ace lefty. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he had some tendinitis in left bicep and Girardi was unsure how Sabathia would pitch on Friday.
He need not have worried a bit.
Sabathia threw four perfect innings at the Mets and only faltered in the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff home run to former Yankee Gary Sheffield and singles to Fernando Tatis and rookie Nick Evans before ending the threat with strikeouts of Omir Santos and pinch-hitter Argenis Reyes.
The Mets did not get a hit the rest of the evening.
Sabathia (8-4) went seven innings, giving up just the three hits, no walks and struck out eight batters. Veteran righthander Brett Tomko pitched a pair of scoreless and hitless innings to finish the game.
“You never want to come out of the game or miss a start and put that kind of stress on the bullpen, but I definitely felt a lot better today,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “The ball was coming out free and easy, so I have to say it was kind of like a blessing in disguise.”

The Yankees also are riding a wave of offense that has seen the team score 28 runs in their last three games following a stretch where the team scored just 18 runs in the previous seven games, two of those games they were shut out.
On Friday their victim was Mike Pelfrey (5-3). However, Pelfrey was also done in by some really shaky defense that helped contribute to a four-run Yankees outburst in the second inning. Only two of the runs were earned.
Melky Cabrera opened the inning with a swinging bunt that sent a ball bounding slowly towards third, David Wright fielded the ball but threw the ball past Evans at first, allowing Cabrera to advance to second. 
After one out, Ramiro Pena, subbing for an ill Derek Jeter, flicked a double down the leftfield line to score Cabrera. Sabathia, in his first at-bat of the season, then sent the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single to score Pena.
But the Mets, who have been plagued all season by injuries to starters such as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado, were not finished playing hot potato with the baseball. Shortstop Alex Cora threw the ball past second baseman Luis Castillo on a force attempt that scored Sabathia.
Evans then inexplicably kicked an easy grounder off the bat of Mark Teixeira that allowed Brett Gardner to score, giving Sabathia an easy cushion the rest of the way.
Pelfrey did manage to settle down after the second inning to retire 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. But manager Jerry Manuel was forced to pinch-hit for him in the fifth inning and the Yankees took out the lumber to a very shaky Mets bullpen in the final two innings.
Gardner, who ended the game with a career-best five hits, three runs scored and two RBI, started the inning that put the Mets away for good with a home run off Elmer Dessens down the right field line, his third homer of the season.
Following a one-out walk to Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez drove the first Dessens offering into right-center for a two-run home run, the 564th of his career to pass former Yankee legend Reggie Jackson — who was at the game — for 11th place on the all-time home run list.

“It’s nice — it feels good,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “And the fact that he’s here is also very nice. It’s good to win another game and play like we expect.”

The Yankees added two runs in the ninth off Mets lefty Sean Green with an RBI triple from Gardner and single from Johnny Damon to score Gardner with Yankees ninth run of the night.
“I just got lucky the first couple at-bats, got some balls to fall in,” Gardner told MLB.com. “Then I managed to take advantage of some pitches to hit later in the game.”

The Yankees managed to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The victory kept them four games behind Boston, who also won on Friday. The Blue Jays also won to stay 1 game in back of the Yankees in third place in the division.
The Yankees have now won three of four games in the Subway Series and they will need only a victory on Saturday or Sunday to claim their first season series win over the Mets since 2003. To help accomplish that feat the Yankees will send righty A.J. Burnett (5-4, 4.24 ERA) to the mound on Saturday.
Burnett pitched well in his last outing against the Florida Marlins, allowing just one in 6 1/3 innings and he struck out eight batters, but he lost the game to Josh Johnson by a 2-1 score. He shut out the Mets over seven innings in a 15-0 drubbing on June 14.
Burnett’s opponent will be Tim Redding (1-2, 6.08 ERA), who pitched into the eighth inning his last time out to earn his first victory of the season. 
Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Jeter missed his first career contest versus the Mets on what was also his 35th birthday. Jeter was afflicted with a hacking cough as part of the same flu bug that shelved Melky Cabrera on Thursday night. Jeter is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game also . . . In addition to Jeter, the Yankees also were not playing with starters Jorge Posads and Nick Swisher. Posada was just given the night off so that catcher Francisco Cervelli could work with Sabathia. Swisher was just held out in order to let Gardner start and bat leadoff in place of Jeter. Swisher did enter the game in the ninth inning at first base to replace Teixeira . . . It is bad news for outfielder Xavier Nady, who was on a rehab assignment at Scranton-Wilkes Barre for a slight tear in a ligament in his right elbow. Nady felt pain while making a throw Thursday night and walked off the field
in the fifth inning. It appears Nady is headed for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and he is likely to miss 12 months. The outfielder, acquired from Pittsburgh last July, has been sidelined since hurting the elbow on April 14 at Tampa Bay. He is scheduled to be re-examined on Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yokum in Los Angeles. His contract with the Yankees expires at the end of the season . . . Gardner’s career-best five hits raised his average from .281 to .302. He is leading all American League rookies in stolen bases with 17 though his is not considered a starter.

MLB To Determine If Yankees Let Fish Get Away

MARLINS 6, YANKEES 5 (Under Protest)

The New York Yankees lost their ace starting pitcher, later they lost their 3-1 lead in the game, then their furious ninth inning rally fell short on Sunday but they may have not lost to the Florida Marlins 6-5 — not just yet anyway.

A bizarre late afternoon game got even stranger in the top of the eighth inning and opened the door for a Yankees protest. Manager Fredi Gonzalez had just used pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza in the bottom of the seventh inning for reliever Ranyel Pinto. On his lineup card he put De Aza in left field to replace Chris Coghlan and wanted his new relief pitcher Leo Nunez to bat in Coghlan’s leadoff spot.
After Nunez threw a strike to leadoff batter Derek Jeter, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to plate umpire Tim Timmons to alert him that Coghlan was still in leftfield.
Gonzalez immediately realized his mistake and he dispatched De Aza out to leftfield to replace Coghlan. However, Girardi claimed that was not the proper remedy. He argued the Marlins should lose both De Aza and Nunez and that the game should resume with a 0-0 count on Jeter.
The umpiring crew, after a long discussion, sent De Aza to the bench in favor of outfielder Jeremy Hermida but allowed Nunez to stay in the game with the 0-1 count on Jeter.
Girardi, still claiming the pitch should not count, advised Timmons the Yankees would play the remainder of the game under protest. 

“We’re going to file an incident report, and all that,” umpire Jeff Kellogg told MLB.com. “The protest is over the pitcher should have been removed from the game, or the pitch should not have counted. That’s the protest. Either or. One or the other should have happened.

“It goes to the league, and they will review everything. They will make a determination after that.”

The Yankees started the game with ace lefty CC Sabathia. However, after a shaky first inning when he surrendered a run, catcher Jorge Posada insisted to Girardi and trainer Gene Monaghan that something was wrong with Sabathia.

On a second visit to the mound, after Sabathia had surrendered a one-out double to Brett Carroll, he finally admitted to Girardi that he had some tightness in his left bicep. After the game, Sabathia said it was not serious and he intended to make his next start. The Yankees said he will be reevaluated on Tuesday.

The early call to the bullpen, however, forced Girardi to play a game of musical relievers to make up for the loss of Sabathia and the innings he had been giving the Yankees. Fortunately, Alfredo Aceves was up to the task. He kept the Marlins bats quiet for 2 2/3 innings. He gave up only a harmless single and struck out two.

That allowed the Yankees offense to get cooking in the 95-degree, 104 heat index day at Land Shark Stadium. 

After two outs in the third inning, Jeter singled off 22-year-old righty Chris Volstad. A wild pitch got him to second and Volstad then walked Nick Swisher. Jeter then stole third. Mark Teixeira then pounded a high ground ball over the head of first baseman Jorge Cantu for a double that scored Jeter easily.

Alex Rodriguez, back in the starting Yankee lineup after being given two days to overcome what he called “fatigue,” then fought off an inside fastball for a bloop single to left that scored Swisher and Teixeira to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

But Girardi elected to replace Aceves with Brett Tomko in the fifth inning and Tomko promptly coughed up the lead by giving up a one-out single to Coghlan and two-out home run to All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, his ninth homer of the season.

Tomko then surrendered another run in the sixth inning on a two-out home run by Cody Ross, his 12th of the season, making the score 4-3 Marlins.

“I’ve been a bit of a wreck the last three or four times out,” Tomko said to MLB.com. “It just seems like when I make a mistake, it’s getting hit. It’s a frustrating thing.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, allowed Volstad to recover. After Brett Gardner’s single in the fourth inning, the Yankees did not get a hit or put a runner on base until their were two out in the ninth inning — a run of 15 consecutive outs and only two balls even left the infield.

The Marlins added to their lead in the seventh inning on a single by Jorge Cantu that brought in Coghlan. Ramirez scored from first on the same play when Melky Cabrera’s throw from left field skipped past Posada for an error. The Marlins now lead 6-3.

But, just when it seemed the Yankees would become Fish food for the second game in a row, Posada sent a 1-1 pitch off closer Matt Lindstrom just past a diving Cantu into rightfield for a single. Cabrera followed with a single up the middle that just eluded second baseman Dan Uggla. 

Gardner then brought the Yankees to within one run on a single swing — a ringing triple to deep center to score Posada and Cabrera. Lindstrom, obviously laboring and having control problems, then walked pinch-hitter Johnny Damon.

But Lindtsrom induced Derek Jeter into hitting a weak grounder to short on the first pitch and Yankees threat was quashed. 

Volstad (5-7), yet another young starter the Yankees have never faced in a regular season game, got the victory. Tomko (0-2) very much earned the loss. Lindstrom picked up his 14th save, though he did put some doubt into the contest.

Will the victory hold up, however? If Major League Baseball sides with Girardi’s protest, the Yankees would have to return to Miami at a date to be determined and the game would resume in the top of the eighth inning with the Marlins leading 6-3.

“I’d like to keep the two runs I got in the ninth and just play the eighth over,” Giradi said to MLB.com.

The Yankees have today to lick their wounds in Atlanta awaiting their three-game series with the Braves. The Yankees will send Chien-Ming Wang (0-5, 12.30 ERA) to the mound and the Braves will counter with rookie phenom Tommy Hanson (2-0, 4.08 ERA), yet another pitcher the Yankees have not faced.

The Yankees have now lost six of the past eight games in which they have faced a starter they have never seen during the regular season.  That hardly inspires much confidence for the Yankees on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Yankees have fallen to four games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings. Toronto is just one game back of the Yankees and the Rays have climbed to within two games.

So a win Tuesday may be a necessity. Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

The Ultimate Gift

Yankees 9, Mets 8

June 12 was Hideki Matsui’s 35th birthday and the DH blasted a three-run home run to celebrate. But at the end of this evening in the Bronx it was Alex Rodriguez who received the best gift of all.
The largesse was bestowed by former Gold Glove New York Mets second baseman Luis Castillo in the form of a dropped last out pop fly that scored two runs for the New York Yankees and allowed them to steal a 9-8 victory in the opener of the Subway Series of 2009.
There were 47,000 fans, two managers and two teams whose collective jaws dropped open in disbelief at what they just witnessed.
The bottom of the ninth had started with the Mets leading 8-7 after David Wright doubled in the top of the 8th inning to score Carlos Beltran from first base off Yankees closer supreme Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who was summoned in a 7-7 tie with two out, to retire Beltran to end the inning. He walked him instead and allowed Wright to follow to untie what had been a wid night of lead changes and momentum swings.
Little did the Mets and Castillo know that one more lead swing would be in the offing.
The Mets closer Frankie Rodriguez was summoned for his 15th save. As has been his pattern, Rodriguez had to walk a highwire throughout the frame. 
He retired Brett Gardner on a foul pop to start the inning. However, Derek Jeter reached by reaching out of the strike zone for an outside changeup he sent up the middle for a single. After striking out pinch-hitter Johnny Damon, K-Rod decided to pitch carefully to the dangerous Mark Teixeira, who had added to his American League home run total with his 20th in the third inning with Garner aboard.
Once the count reached 3-0, K-Rod intentionally walked Tex to get to A-Rod. Pitching carefully again, A-Rod managed to put K-Rod into a hitters’ 3-1 count and the Yankees third baseman was looking fastball form the Mets pitcher.
He got it and he did make contact. However, the ball popped up seemingly into a harmless spot in short rightfield. Castillo drift out, settled under it and waited for the final out to nestle in his glove. A-Rod slammed his bat in frustration and trotted to first.
But the baseball gods had other ideas and the ball hit the heel of Castillo’s glove, squirted into the air and down to the lush green turf. Jeter, who was off with the contact, was already at home plate. Teixeira, who also ran out the pop-up, was almost at third when the ball hit the turf.
He then kicked it into fourth gear and he slid home well ahead of Castillo’s throw to home to backup catcher Omir Santos.
The Yankees poured out of the dugout to jump on A-Rod with congratulations. Oddly, the person they needed to thank stood stunned in short rightfield.
This miscue certainly enters Yankees-Mets rivalry lore. But it may also get as much airplay as Bill Buckner’s ole’ in the 1986 World Series. There are errors, there are miscues and there are gaffes. But Castillo’s may been one for the ages.
He told MLB.com “I have to catch that ball. The ball was moving a little bit. I didn’t get it. I feel bad. It was a routine fly ball. … I need to get it. … I feel so bad. I don’t want to make any errors, so I feel bad about myself. I made a mistake — I feel bad.”

It was the Yankees who were felling bad most of the night. Every time it seemed they would get a lead, the Mets had an answer. Robinson Cano homered in the second inning to break the seal on the scoring. However, Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain gave it right back in the third without giving the Mets the benefit of one hit.

After a walk, a fielder’s choice, a stolen base and another walk, Chamberlain hit rookie left fielder Fernando Martinez to load the bases. He ten walked Beltran to knot the game at 1. After striking out Wright, Chamberlain then hit Ryan Church with an 0-2 pitch. Perhaps the gift-giving started in this frame.

Teixeira’s two-run blast in the bottom off the inning off veteran righthander Livian Hernandez took the lead back for the Bronx Bombers.

But the Yankees could not hold it. Chamberlain had to leave the game after four innings because he threw 103 pitches. He had only given up a single to Wright for the Mets only hit. But he walked five and hit two and did not seem to have command of his fastball most of the night.

Manager Joe Girardi summoned Brett Tomko in the fifth. Tomko then got lit up like the Fourth of July. After a double and a walk, Church doubled them both in to reclaim the lead for the Mets. DH and former Yankee Gary Sheffield followed with a towering home run down the leftfield line to make it 6-3.

Jeter blasted his ninth home run of the season to cut the lead to 6-4 in the fifth and Matsui, who celebrated his 34th birthday with a grand slam home run, took a 2-0 Hernandez fastball and sent it into the second down in rightfield to give the Yankees a 7-6 lead.

But the Mets tied it in the seventh by chasing reliever David Robertson with a double off the bat of Sheffield. David Murphy singled to right but Sheffield was held at third. Catcher Brian Schneider then rolled into a 4-6-3 double play as Sheffield crossed the plate to tie it.

That set up Wright’s heroics in the ninth off Rivera and made it look like the Mets had finally put down the Yankees for the night. However, Castillo’s misplay turned celebration into frustration.

As A-Rod told MLB. com after the game:  “I really have never seen
that before, and I’ve played for a long time,” he said . “That’s why you play for nine innings — that’s why you play hard. The lesson we take from here is to play all 27 and hustle all the time.”

Perhaps it is a good thing Jeter and Teixeira ran it out, as did A-Rod. Otherwise, the embarrassment might have been with them rather than Castillo.

The Yankees will take the gift nonetheless. After three straight losses in Boston it was just what they needed.