8:49 am Sep. 7, 2012
Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, a 10-6 Orioles win, illustrates just how much danger the Yankees are in, having lost the 10-game lead they had in late July.
David Phelps has been an effective starter all year, pitching to a 3.13 E.R.A. and allowing more than three earned runs just once all season. But he's faltered of late, with a 4.76 E.R.A. over his last five starts, and on Thursday night, facing an increasingly confident Orioles lineup and raucous Camden Yards crowd, he gave up five runs over 4 2/3 innings.
The Yankees managed an exceptional performance as well, rallying from 6-1 down to tie the game in the eighth inning against an Orioles bullpen that has outperformed the Yankees.
But then came the biggest outlier of all: monumental struggles from David Robertson.
Consider that over the last two years, David Robertson had a 1.53 E.R.A. as September 2012 dawned. Only one reliever with at least 100 innings pitched was any better. So once the Yankees tied things up at 6-6, there's essentially no one a major league team would have been better off deploying.
That Robertson gave up three runs while failing to record an out is surprising enough. But how it happened, on a pair of home runs by Mark Reynolds and Adam Jones, is particularly shocking.
Robertson entered the game having allowed three home runs all year. Last year, he gave up one home run. Then he went out last night and gave up two to three batters faced.
The resulting Orioles win brought the Orioles back into a tie with the Yankees, while the Tampa Bay Rays closed to within two games of the Yankees. The only good news for the Yankees is that as they battle for first place with the Orioles, the Rays are facing the A.L.'s best team in the Texas Rangers. And the Oakland Athletics, who have been on a tear for two months, have now lost three in a row, so as of now the Yankees have a half-game lead over the A's for the final wild card spot, too.
It is still a bit surreal to discuss the Yankees in such terms. But so is seeing David Robertson give up home runs in bunches. Alternatives must be considered.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Mets "welcome" Chipper Jones to New York, one last time.
However they perform on the court, the Knicks will look good in their new uniforms.
David Wilson insists there's no crying in football.
Ahead of Sunday's opener with the Bills, Jets owner Woody Johnson declined to give his head coach or general manager a vote of confidence.