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Saturday, September 7, 2013
Another 'nightmare' for Hughes & pen

By Andrew Marchand

Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes and the Yankees' bullpen couldn't protect an 8-3 lead on Friday night.
NEW YORK -- This is not how Yankees fans were supposed to feel about Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in 2013. In 2007, Chamberlain saved the season and he was set to choose between becoming the next Roger Clemens or the heir to Mariano Rivera. By 2010, Hughes was an All-Star and slated to be the Yankees' No. 2 starter -- or even their ace -- for the next decade.

Now, the two pitchers make Alex Rodriguez look popular.

The Yankees had an epic meltdown on Friday, which followed their epic meltdown on Thursday. They lost 12-8 to the Red Sox, giving up nine unanswered runs in the seventh and eighth innings.

A night after Chamberlain failed, Hughes had flat stuff and had -- in his words -- a "terrible inning" in his "nightmare" season. With David Robertson hurt, Rivera needing the day off after three games in a row and Shawn Kelley out, the Yankees needed one of the former young guns to contribute.

Joba Chamberlain
Joba Chamberlain walked in a run during Boston's four-run eighth.
It did not happen.

The Yankees had a five-run lead going into the seventh inning, but they had no Rivera or Robertson -- and, as it tuned out, no chance.

Boone Logan would give up the grand slam that tied the game at eight, while trying to clean up Hughes' mess. Logan faced a batter, righty Mike Napoli, against whom he would not normally have pitched. Napoli snuck a grand slam just over Ichiro Suzuki's jumping attempt in right.

Adding to the loss, Logan is slated for an MRI to check out his sore left triceps. D-Rob is out for probably close to a week, according to Joe Girardi, because of his sore right shoulder.

In the meantime, the Yankees are wasting lead after lead.

"We’re scoring a lot of runs," Logan said. "The starters are giving us their best. It’s our job to lock it down and with that kind of lead in the later innings it’s bulls--- for it to happen, for us to do that."

It is easy to try to link the two tough losses, but one had nothing to do with the other except that the Yankees' bullpen is spent, leaving guys like Hughes and Chamberlain in important roles. The Yankees weren't mentally drained after Thursday. If anything they were energized until Andy Pettitte had to hand the ball to a short pen.

On Thursday, Joba had some bad luck on a check-swing third strike that wasn't called, while on Friday, Hughes' last batter, Dustin Pedroia, hit a soft grounder to Rodriguez. A-Rod charged and fired to first. The ball beat Pedroia, but Mark Reynolds could not come up with it. It was a play Mark Teixeira makes.

But bad luck follows certain players around. Hughes put himself in the position where he has been demoted to the bullpen in his final month on the team. He pitched to a 4-13 record with a 4.86 ERA as a starter, eventually leaving Girardi and Brian Cashman no choice.

Still in the seventh, Hughes entered with a five-run lead to protect. Hughes has always been better as a reliever than a starter. His career ERAs were 4.72 as a starter and 1.44 in relief prior to Friday. In 2009, when he was the setup man on a championship team, Hughes thrived with more work. He entered Friday having thrown just 20 pitches in the past 10 days. So perhaps the circumstances were not ideal.

Hughes did not make excuses, but did say he felt all "out of sorts," while railing against himself. He would allow two singles and a walk around an out before Pedroia's soft grounder to Rodriguez would force him to relinquish the mound having given up a run, and with the bases juiced.

"The stuff was flat," said Hughes. "My command wasn't very good. I didn't really make a good pitch until Pedroia -- and there is not anything you can do about that. It was just kind of a terrible inning. This time of year, terrible innings cost you big time."

For good measure, Chamberlain would come in during the eighth and only record two outs, while walking three and allowing a hit and a run.

The fans have had it with Chamberlain and Hughes. When they both left the mound, all they heard were boos.

"I knew I stunk tonight," Hughes said alone at his locker near midnight. "It is not like they were telling me that. This year has been a nightmare. It is not like I'm not pitching well one day -- especially at this point -- is going to rattle me. I'm capable of doing it. I just got to do it."

The weekend is turning into a nightmare for the Yankees. Just as scary: With all the injuries in the pen, Hughes and Chamberlain could be asked to get some more big outs.