Josh Banks vs. Joba Chamberlain Match Makes for Best Pitching Duel This Year

Will ShafferCorrespondent IJune 19, 2008

In the first inning, Joba Chamberlain struck out two before retiring the side.

Then Josh Banks pitched out of trouble, retiring Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi on strikeouts with Jeter and Damon standing on second and third respectively.

In the second, it was Chamberlain who worked out of a bases-loaded nobody-out jam.

Joba began by striking out Scott Hairston.  Then he effectively blocked home plate, tagging out Adrian Gonzalez after Jose Molina quickly recovered a low pitch that got away. Then Joba struck out Khalil Green to retire the side, pumping his fist in the heat of the moment as he headed back to the dugout.

Both pitchers worked an effective and efficient third inning.

In the fourth, Joba surrendered his first run of the game. After giving up a leadoff single to Brian Giles, he walked Adrian Gonzalez, then struck out Chase Headley for the first out of the inning.

Up came Tony Clark who, on a two balls one strike count, laced a pitch just inside the foul-line in left field. The ball would end up in the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring Giles from second.

That would be all the scoring the Padres would do this inning—and ultimately in the game. A-Rod gunned down Adrian Gonzalez at home plate on a ground ball before Joba retired Khalil Green on a line-out to Bobby Abreu in deep right field.

The bottom of the inning was fairly uneventful, aside from Jason Giambi getting hit by an inside fastball by Banks with two outs already recorded. Posada would end up grounding out on a nice play by Adrian Gonzalez at first base to end the inning.

Before this game, I had not yet seen Josh Banks pitch. His stuff reminds me a lot of Mike Mussina's. He features a fastball clocked in the mid to high 80 mph range with a good slider and a knuckle curve. His allies are location and changing speeds.

He pitches effectively to both sides of the plate to both left and right-handed hitters using any of his pitches. He also competes hard, especially with runners in scoring position as we saw in the first inning. Very Moose-like.

The top of the fifth was unremarkable as well. Joba recorded his third walk of the game before his seventh strikeout. The inning would end on a sharp ground out to Jeter, who flipped to Cano for the force-out at second.

Cano flied out to the deepest part of the park, dead center field, for the first out of the bottom of the fifth inning. Had he hit the ball to any other field it would have tied the game.

Then Banks would do something he hadn't done all game: walk Melky Cabrera with one out.

Cabrera then took advantage of the Padres' greatest weakness, which is giving up stolen bases. The Melk-Man swiped second and third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Jose Molina. Tie game.

Damon was then robbed of a single by Padres center fielder Jody Gerut to end the inning.

After recording two more strikeouts in the top of the sixth, Joba Chamberlain hit the 100 pitch mark and prompted Joe Girardi to end his day. Although Joba would not factor in the game's decision, he pitched extremely well.

His final line was five-and-two-thirds innings pitched, surrendering only one run off four hits, walking three batters, and striking out nine.

Jose Veras finished the inning by getting Tony Clark to fly out to Johnny Damon in left field.

The Yankees took their first lead of the day in the bottom of the sixth. Jeter led off with a single to left field, then stole second base with Bobby Abreu up. Abreu would later ground out to first base, moving Jeter to third.

On the first pitch, red-hot Alex Rodriguez singled to left field to score Jeter from third. Josh Banks' day would then be done, as Padres manager Bud Black replaced him with the left-handed Justin Hampson to face left-handed hitting Jason Giambi.

A-Rod stole second base before Giambi eventually struck out. Then Hampson intentionally walked Jorge Posada to face the left-handed Robinson Cano. Cano flew out to end the threat.

Veras pitched a scoreless seventh despite walking two.

The bottom of the seventh featured Jose Molina hitting a ground-rule double with one out. Damon was then robbed again of a base hit, this time by Padres right fielder Brian Giles in what will probably be a web-gem on SportCenter tonight.

Bud Black lifted Hampson in favor of the right-handed Bryan Corey to face Derek Jeter.

Jeter walked to bring up the slumping Bobby Abreu who has only three hits in his previous 27 at-bats. Abreu would pop out to end the inning.

Onto the eighth, a scary time for Yankees fans with Kyle Farnsworth on the mound. Not so scary today though, as Farnsworth would strike out two—only surrendering a single to Adrian Gonzalez—before retiring the side.

After an uneventful bottom of the eighth inning, Mariano Rivera would come in the top of the ninth to strike out the side, recording his 20th save of the season and preserving the Yankees' 40th win of the season.

The win is now the seventh in a row for the red-hot Yankees, now winners of their 12th game out of their last 15 played.

Granted, the wins are piling up against teams more or less not that great. But gaining consecutive sweeps is a difficult thing to do against any team in the big leagues today.

The Yankees have beaten some great pitchers, such as Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy. They've won games by overwhelming the opposing team with strong offensive output and they've grinded out wins in close games.

The bullpen has preserved leads and the offense has provided leads for the bullpen to work with. The starters are giving the offense time to do its job before handing the ball to the bullpen.

Overall, the Yankees are tied with the Detroit Tigers as the hottest teams in Major League Baseball in their past 10 games, as both teams have gone 8-2.

After recording nine strikeouts today and only surrendering one run, Joba Chamberlain critics can only be silenced. His move to the rotation now looms large with the loss of Chien-Ming Wang. By the All-Star break he could legitimately be the Yankees' ace in the starting rotation.

June, as it was last season, seems to be the month the Yankees come to life. Yankees fans can only hope this type of play will continue as long as possible, as the team is still only five games behind Boston in the standings after today.

The win for the Yankees today displayed some of the best pitching I've seen from any team all season. It wasn't a shut-out, it wasn't a slug-fest, just good old fashioned baseball.


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