Way to kill momentum.
The New York Yankees dropped their second game in a row in Texas, losing to the Rangers 8-6 in a game that was not as close as the box score indicated. A Richie Sexson grand slam in the eighth inning couldn't help the Yanks climb out of the hole that Andy Pettitte dug for them, taking the loss and falling to 12-9 on the season.
After Monday night's injury shortened start from Joba Chamberlain, the last thing that the Yankees needed was another short start from their starting pitching. Over the years, when the Yankees need a win, Andy Pettitte has been the go to guy. Notoriously tough in the second half of the season, Pettitte has often dominated teams in hopes of putting a charge back into the Yankees' lineup.
Not last night.
Andy had a bit of a command problem, issuing 3 walks and allowing a two run dinger to Home Run Derby Hero Josh Hamilton in the first inning. Pettitte did not mince words about his efforts after last night's game, saying, "I'm sick. I just felt like I let everybody down, and I'm extremely disappointed."
He wasn't the only one. The Yankees' bullpen, overtaxed after Joba's short start, couldn't get anything going, as they served up three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take control of the game for good.
This means that for tonight's game, Yankee starter Sidney Ponson must pitch well enough to keep the Yankees in the game while at the same time lasting long enough so that the bullpen can get a rest. After a few pedestrian outings, Ponson seemed to have it together last time out against the Angels, going 7 strong innings and giving up just two hits. Ideally, Joe Girardi would like to see the same from Ponson tonight, then give the ball to Marte and Rivera to close it out.
Luckily, the Yankees are going up against Tommy Hunter, making his second start of the season. Last time out, he gave up eight hits and six earned runs to the Blue Jays in his Major League debut. The Yankees will be looking to jump out to an early lead against this inexperienced right hander from Alabama.
Clearly, the Yankees need to take this game as well as tomorrow's outing to salvage a split with the offensive-minded Rangers before heading to LA for a three game series with the Angels this weekend. With the Red Sox and Rays seemingly in it for the long haul, every win is crucial for the Yankees.
If the (somewhat) new look Yanks are going to make this an interesting pennant race, their play has to become more consistent, something that the players understand.
"It's critical now," Damon said. "We're 6 1/2 out. This road trip is very important, and we've already started out 0-2."
Critical may be an understatement.