Rasner deals with first road bump
Bullpen falters after righty as Yanks' five-game win streak ends
BALTIMORE -- Perhaps this was the inevitable downside of moving Joba Chamberlain into the starting rotation, and maybe it is the unavoidable curse of spectacular early success at the Major League level.
Chamberlain hadn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues one year ago on this date, and he never set foot on a mound on this day, either.
But as the Orioles were circling the bases during a five-run seventh inning, it was impossible not to look up from what would finish as a 6-1 Yankees loss on Monday and wonder what the landscape might be if the bullpen was still configured differently.
As the Yankees continue to mix and match to figure out who they will use in the post-Chamberlain relief era, relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Veras didn't offer many answers on a beautiful Memorial Day afternoon at Oriole Park.
"It changes things," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Other people have to get in the mix and step up in the later innings. You can't use the same guys every day, because we'll burn them out. Everyone has to be involved."
Hawkins was charged with three runs, and Veras served up a long homer to Aubrey Huff, allowing a quality effort from Darrell Rasner to devolve into a forgettable Yankees loss. Seven scoreless innings from Orioles left-hander Garrett Olson firmly placed the Yankees on the wrong end of a rout, slipping back into last place in the American League East.
With a runner on first base, Hawkins was one out away from escaping the seventh and keeping New York's deficit at one run -- provided by Nick Markakis' solo home run in the sixth, the only dent in Rasner's line. Brian Roberts worked a six-pitch walk, and Melvin Mora punched an RBI single to left-center on Hawkins' final pitch.
"It just didn't work out. It felt good," Hawkins said. "I was trying to get it in and up [to Mora], and he fought it off. I've been doing this a long time. It's easy to put a bad one behind you."
Veras couldn't stop the bleeding, as Markakis ripped his first pitch up the middle for his third hit of the game, and Huff teed off on a three-run homer that iced the game.
There's no telling how things might have worked out if Chamberlain was still a full-fledged reliever -- or even if the Yankees still carried a left-handed arm in their bullpen, having long since dispatched Billy Traber to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- but it was a question worth asking.
"It changes the dynamic of our bullpen, but we made the decision that he is a starter and we're sticking to it," Girardi said. "When Joba's in your rotation, it changes the dynamic of your rotation, too. If you could clone people and get a couple of him, it'd be all right, but we can't do that."
The early part of the game was the Markakis show, as the Baltimore right fielder broke a scoreless tie -- one he'd helped preserve three innings earlier -- with one swing in the sixth inning. Markakis hammered a Rasner fastball over the wall in straightaway center field for his ninth home run of the year.
The shot continued the personal torment of Rasner, who has not found a way to silence Markakis, with nine hits in 11 career at-bats against the righty, including two doubles and now a homer.
"You're going to have those guys in every lineup, and he's that one," Rasner said.
The last time the Yankees saw Olson, they knocked him out in the third inning with six earned runs, but Johnny Damon said the left-hander made some adjustments since his start last Wednesday in the Bronx.
"I thought his slider was real good," Damon said. "I saw him in my first at-bat, and I never saw the rotation. I had to alter my stance in order to see it. It wasn't as sharp as the game progressed, but he was hitting his spots."
The game was kept scoreless by Markakis' left arm. In the third inning, Markakis cut down Damon at the plate on Hideki Matsui's single through the right side, firing a one-hop strike to catcher Ramon Hernandez, who tagged Damon on a head-first slide, ending the inning.
"There's two outs," Girardi said. "You have to take that chance. He made the perfect throw."
"Markakis is some player," Damon marveled.
Coming up from the Minor Leagues to offer the struggling Yankees a shot in the arm, Rasner had started the season with a perfect 3-0 record through his first three starts since having his contract purchased from Triple-A, but the Markakis play in the third was his best shot at any support.
The right-hander was finished after six innings and 98 pitches. He was relieved by Hawkins and charged with one run on five hits, walking one and striking out three. After losing almost all of his '07 season to injury, Rasner said he has found some comfort and confidence by not concerning himself with his current situation.
"It's too much energy worrying about if I'm going to have a job the next day," Rasner said. "I want to go out there and just compete. I'm not worried about other things that I can't control."
The Yankees avoided the shutout in the ninth, when Matsui stroked his third hit of the game off reliever Jamie Walker and then scored on Chad Moeller's two-out RBI single to left, but Melky Cabrera flew out to center, ending the game.
"It's going to happen," Girardi said. "It happened to Murderer's Row, I'm sure. There's going to be days you don't score runs."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.