10/26/09 3:33 AM EST
Joba plays critical role in clincher
In relief of Pettitte, righty gets final two outs in seventh
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
As Chamberlain ran out of the bullpen gates on Sunday, the crowd of 50,173 at Yankee Stadium greeted the 24-year-old reliever with a rousing applause as soon as his cleats hit the plush green outfield grass.
Gone were the thoughts of Chamberlain's past two outings against the Angels in the American League Championship Series, in which he allowed four hits and one run while producing just two outs.
This was the same Chamberlain with the same exciting stuff, but catcher Jorge Posada couldn't help but notice the confidence the righty manifested as soon as he toed the rubber.
"He came in there, he was poised and he was strong," Posada said. "He didn't really want to waste any time. He took the ball and threw it. And that's all we can ask for."
And with New York clinging to what was then a two-run lead, the seven pitches Chamberlain threw were critical in keeping the pesky Angels at bay and allowing the Yankees to secure a pennant-winning 5-2 victory.
Chamberlain entered the game in relief of starter Andy Pettitte, who tossed 6 1/3 innings of one-run baseball, with his last pitch a one-out single to Juan Rivera. With pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis at the plate representing the tying run, Chamberlain induced a pair of groundouts, first to Izturis then to Erick Aybar, to end any potential rally for the Angels.
"It was great," said a champagne-soaked Chamberlain, reflecting on one of many big moments that led to the chaotic celebration in the clubhouse. "[For manager Joe Girardi] to have the confidence in me to run out there after Andy and the performance that he had, I couldn't ask for anything better.
"I knew I was going to do everything I could to keep us in the game."
Given the rocky season for Chamberlain, who went through long bouts of ineffectiveness and endured multiple sets of "Joba Rules" in the Yankees' efforts to limit his innings, an outing like Sunday night was a welcome source of pride around the Yankees' clubhouse.
"It's great for everybody involved," pitching coach Dave Eiland said. "He's going to take this right into the next round [of the playoffs]. And those are two big outs he got. It all fell in place tonight."
Added captain Derek Jeter: "Joba came in, it seemed like he was relaxed [and] he did a tremendous job."
Much has been made of the struggles of Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, a young pair of relievers who haven't looked quite right in their first ALCS. Hughes has allowed three earned runs in the postseason, more runs than he allowed in relief in all of June, July and August.
But with just seven pitches, Chamberlain answered the probing questions on Yankees fans' minds, proving that he could still be an effective reliever.
"These guys can do the job," Pettitte said. "They are going to do a great job for us. Sometimes you are going to give up a few hits here and there, but we got a lot of confidence in what we are doing, and we got a great bullpen."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.