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Pettitte, Joba Must Shake Yankee Stadium Blues

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Pettitte, Joba Must Shake Yankee Stadium Blues

Last month in Miami, Andy Pettitte stood in front of his locker at Land Shark Stadium and answered questions about his start against the Marlins.

He had thrown one of his best games of the season that night, seven innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 Yankees win.

Something he told reporters, however, surprised me.

"I've given up a lot more home runs at home," Pettitte said. "They hit a couple of balls tonight that would have been home runs probably at Yankee Stadium. Instead of giving up one run, I might have given up three or four at home."

Odd, I thought, that Pettitte would use this platform to get in a dig on his besieged home park.

It was a notable statement from a senior member of the roster. We didn't need to hear Andy Pettitte tell us how the new Yankee Stadium was a launching pad—you could have Heidi and Spencer sit in for a four-game set and deduce that truth at this point.

But Pettitte's claim implied that the jet stream is very much on his mind...and, as an extension, likely on the minds of his teammates.

Staff ace CC Sabathia made it clear that he doesn't lose any sleep over the issue; he feels if he makes his pitches it shouldn't matter how the ball travels. A.J. Burnett has made similar comments.

But you have to wonder if Pettitte and fellow Yankee Stadium Section 8 case Joba Chamberlain feel the same way.

The numbers paint a pretty ghoulish picture.

Pettitte has gone a respectable 4-3 in seven starts in the Bronx, but his ERA is 5.72 and he's allowed a whole bunch of hits—78 in just 62.1 innings. By comparison, the left-hander is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA over seven starts on the road, allowing 36 hits over 42 innings.

Pettitte's biggest problem, however, has been the long ball. He has surrendered 12 of his 14 homers this season at Yankee Stadium, a pretty staggering number for half a season of work. Two of those homers came in yesterday's loss to the Blue Jays, including a bomb by...John McDonald? Brutal.

Chamberlain, meanwhile, has been nothing short of a disaster at home. He has yet to win a game at Yankee Stadium, which is pretty hard to believe considering he's made nine starts and is playing for a team on pace to win 96 games.

The numbers across the board show a preference for pitching away from home, but clearly the biggest issue for Chamberlain is his command. The right-hander has shown an unwillingness to challenge hitters with his fastball, instead chucking countless sliders, a pitch he has trouble throwing for strikes.

As a result, Chamberlain has walked 25 batters over 42 innings at Yankee Stadium, compared to just 16 free passes over 42.2 innings away from the Bronx. Inevitably, this runs his pitch counts up early and he ends up leaving too much of the work to the middle relief. Chamberlain has reached the seventh inning just once at Yankee Stadium. Once.

In Pettitte's case, the answer to his problem appears fairly clear cut. Stop giving up so many damn home runs.

He has always given up a fair number of hits, and he'll continue to do that. But Pettitte will have to figure out a better way to keep the ball down, or he's going to continue to have starts ruined by one or two bad pitches.

Chamberlain's situation is a bit more tricky.

The idea that he's not completely healthy continues to rattle around in my head. How else can you explain why he's not challenging hitters with a fastball as special as his can be?

If he doesn't trust his fastball, and it doesn't seem like he has since he walked off that mound in Texas last August, it makes a certain amount of sense why he's flicking all those sliders in big spots at Yankee Stadium.

In any event, with the Wanger in seemingly perpetual limbo at this state of his career and Burnett not known for 33-start seasons, the Yankees will need the back end of their rotation to pitch better as we inch closer to the second half.

Overcoming the Yankee Stadium blues will go a long way toward that.

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