TORONTO -- At some point in every pitcher's career, there will come a night like the one Chase Whitley had Monday night at the Rogers Centre. A bloop here, a seeing-eye hit there, and then suddenly, pow, a shot over the center-field fence, and before you know what hit you, you and your team are behind by a touchdown.
New York Yankees
It has happened to all of them, from the great to the ordinary to the downright terrible. Someday, it will even happen to Masahiro Tanaka.
So in and of itself, Whitley's nightmare game -- 11 hits and eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, the big one a long three-run HR by Adam Lind in a six-run second inning -- doesn't really mean all that much.
After all, the 25-year-old right-hander, a reliever by trade who was thrust into the role of starter out of dire necessity, had taken the ball in seven previous games and acquitted himself well in every one of them. Not spectacularly -- this is not Tanaka we're taking about here -- but certainly well enough, with a little run support, to have won at least five of those seven starts, and maybe as many as six. He did in fact win his last three, and seemed to be on his way to finding a groove in his newfound life as a starter.
So what happened Monday night was troubling but certainly not fatal. It's not as if he was Vidal Nuno, a home run machine at home who lately has taken his "Iron Mike" routine on the road, too. Whitley appears to be a dependable back of the rotation starter, who, like all back of the rotation starters, needs a little help from his friends -- the ones with the bats.
“It happens to every pitcher," Joe Girardi said. "The greatest pitchers have bad nights. It’s part of it. It just pushes you for your next start.”
Until proven otherwise, you have to take Girardi at his word, that this was Whitley's clinker, the off-night that sooner or later every starter must have.
"It was frustrating because it took the team out of a chance to win," Whitley (3-1) said. "It was a poor performance. I didn't execute like I wanted to, but it's behind me and I'll move on to the next one."
That is the right attitude, of course, and really the only attitude in a profession that requires a thick skin and a short memory.
What is disturbing, however, is the possibility that all the Yankees' young starters -- and if you count Tanaka, three rookies and a guy with slightly over one year of big league service (David Phelps) make up 80 percent of their rotation -- are all due to come down from a surprisingly good early run of performance.
Of course, it has already happened to Nuno, who only remains in the rotation because the Yankees have no one to replace him. A couple of starts back, Phelps looked as if he was headed in the same direction, with subpar outings against Kansas City and Seattle, but he bounced back to beat the Athletics in Oakland and the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium last Thursday.
But it is possible that when he gets the start in Tuesday night's Game 2 between these two clubs, Phelps, like Whitley on Monday, will find the Blue Jays a lot tougher the second time around.
The same is true of Tanaka, who despite having lost two games this season -- more than he had lost in his previous 33 regular-season games -- has yet to have that one real stinker that none of them can avoid.
If that is what is coming, then the Yankees seem destined to seesaw around the .500 mark all season, since with the exception of the odd night here and there, their high-priced lineup continues to underproduce.
"I think our pitching’s been great all season. They’ve really picked us up," said Mark Teixeira, whose two solo home runs over the last three games accounted for the only Yankee runs in 26 innings before they put up two meaningless runs in the ninth Monday night to make the final score 8-3 Toronto. "We've just got to swing the bats better."
Teixeira is right; it is only the Yankees' pitching, makeshift rotation and all, that has kept them from plunging into full disaster over the first 75 games of this season.
Chase Whitley getting bombed Monday night at the Rogers Centre doesn't necessarily mean that unexpected run is over.
It just serves to remind you that sooner or later, even the strongest pillar in a foundation is bound to crack if too much weight is put on it.
Until now, the Yankees' starting rotation has borne the brunt of this season, and over the past couple of days, the first cracks have begun to show.
New York Yankees
No offense: Until Ichiro Suzuki's single with two outs in the eighth, the Yankees had managed just two hits -- one of them Teixeira's 13th home run in the fourth inning -- all game off Marcus Stroman, a pitcher they beat last week at home but could do nothing with in Toronto. Stroman, a Long Island product who was making just his fifth pro start, went eight innings, allowing just three hits and one run and striking out seven.
"He was a completely different pitcher than when we faced him last week," Teixeira said. "Pinpointing his fastball at 94, 95, and his slider was really good tonight. Struck me out in the first inning, or the second inning, on a really good one. He just had really good stuff tonight."
Solo streak snapped: Sent in as a defensive replacement in the eighth when Girardi pulled his regulars, Yangervis Solarte snapped an 0-for-28 skid with an RBI single in the ninth. Solarte's batting average, which was up to .336 in mid-May, has slid to .266.