Crazy day in the Bronx ends in misery
The trade winds were swirling all day around the Yankees. As the deadline was approaching, names like Ryan Dempster, Ty Wigginton and Chase Headley were being thrown around. In the end, the Yankees made a minor trade, landing infielder Casey McGehee and cash for reliever Chad Qualls in an exchange with the surging Pirates. McGehee will provide the Yankees some more stability in the wake of the Alex Rodriguez's injury over at third, while also providing depth at the corners.
In an even crazier turn of events at the Stadium, Joba Chamberlain, who was already in Trenton ready to make a rehab appearance, was added to the roster to fill Qualls' spot. Chamberlain had to immediately turn around and made it to the ballpark just in time for the game.
All of this was happening around a team that started the night 3-8 in their last 11 games, while their cushy lead over the other so-called contenders in the American League East was starting to dwindle to a point of reserved concern.
The Yankees started the game red hot. Their offense, running cold of late, came out firing on all cylinders against Chris Tillman, and scored five runs right out of the gate. However, as quickly as the Yankees offense gave Ivan Nova the lead is as quickly as he gave it right back.
Nova gave up two singles to start the second inning and then immediately struck out the next two batters. He had Mark Reynolds 0-2 and that's when things started to unravel.
“He worked his tail end off after he gave up two singles in a row in the second inning to get two outs and two strikes and threw a slider that didn't break and it kind of snowballed after that,” Girardi said of the at-bat that changed Nova's fate.
Once Reynolds crushed a ground-rule double to put the Orioles on the board, the flood gates opened. Omar Quintanilla smoked a two-run single to bring the Orioles within two. Nova then loaded the bases for Chris Davis, who quickly deposited a grand slam. Baltimore would never turn back.
Nova gutted out another three innings after that, but not after giving up nine runs and 10 hits in an absolutely putrid performance.
“He had no fastball command, inconsistent slider, inconsistent curveball,” Girardi said of Nova. The manager would later assess the performance, saying, “He just really didn't have good stuff tonight.”
In another shocking twist in a berserk day at the stadium, Nova did not seem to agree with the evaluation of his manager regarding his performance.
“I didn't have a bad day,” Nova said after the game. “I don't feel that way. I feel like I went down 0-2 and just got hit.”
Nova did admit that it's been a bad month for him, and that maybe a turn of the calendar would be a fresh start. He is 0-2 in his last four starts with a 7.54 ERA, after a 10-3 record and 3.92 ERA in his first 17 starts of the season. His season ERA has now jumped to 4.53.
“Overall it was a tough night for me,” Nova went on to say. “I guess I feel like I had command of my pitches. I just got hit.”
Nova wasn't the only concern of the evening. The Yankees offense let Chris Tillman off the hook after his absolutely terrible first inning. As an offense, the Yankees were blanked in the final eight innings of the game. Offense, or lack thereof, has been an ongoing problem during this recent rough 12 game stretch. As a team, they are hitting .241 (101-419), while averaging four runs per game in the Yankees' 3-9 slide.
“It's hard for me to say exactly what the difference was in the first inning and the next four, five, six, seven innings,” Girardi said. “Tillman seemed to get his curveball going a little bit better and his changeup going a little bit better. I don't think our guys ever give at-bats away.”
Curtis Granderson agreed with his skipper about Tillman getting better as the game went on.
“Not too sure exactly what he did differently after that, but the main thing is he was able to keep his pitch count down,” Granderson said. “He didn't make too many more mistakes after that. He probably just settled in. He was still giving us a lot of the same pitches to hit. We just weren't able to do much with them.”
With the loss the Yankees' lead in the division is down to 5 1/2 games over the surging Orioles, who have already guaranteed a series victory here in the Bronx. Things may not be looking good right now for the Yankees, but Girardi is confident that this is just a bump in the road.
“We're not playing well, there's no doubt about it,” Girardi said. “We've been through streaks before where we haven't played well and we bounced back and that's all we need to do.”
With one more against the Orioles in a Wednesday afternoon showdown and the last-place Mariners coming into town for the weekend, there is no time like the present for the Yankees to turn this around, and quick.
Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES