11/03/09 1:45 AM EST
Coke spoils bullpen's fine performance
Lefty's two homers turn out to be the difference in Game 5
By Brittany Ghiroli / Special to MLB.com
Coke, who would have stayed holed away in the video room had the television set not been at an unfortunate angle, watched the clubhouse TV anxiously as the Yankees whittled a six-run deficit down to two, with visions of the two seventh-inning solo homers he allowed still burning in his brain.
"It instantly made me hungry to have the ball," Coke said following the Yankees' 8-6 loss. "As much as this [outing] stings, that's exactly what I want. I want the ball back."
He certainly could have used a do-over on Monday, as Coke's disappointing 19-pitch outing came back to haunt the Yankees and end their hopes of clinching a World Series title on hostile Philadelphia ground.
Tabbed to silence the Phillies' toughest left-handed hitters, Coke opened the seventh inning on the heels of four innings of shutdown middle relief from David Robertson and Alfredo Aceves, both of whom tossed two scoreless innings.
But the floodgates opened as soon as Coke hung a full-count fastball to Chase Utley, becoming just the latest Yankees pitcher to be burned by the hot-hitting second baseman's power surge. Utley's blast was his fifth homer of the World Series, tying Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson's mark set in 1977.
Coke got the slumping Ryan Howard to strike out swinging and retired right-handed hitter Jayson Werth on a fly ball to center field before the Phillies' bats struck again. Raul Ibanez sent another of Coke's fastballs out of Citizens Bank Park, blasting a solo shot into the right-field stands to end Coke's night and give the Phillies an 8-2 lead.
"Those were tack-on runs that hurt us, obviously," manager Joe Girardi said of the seventh-inning scores. "We ended up with six runs [on Monday]. We still had a chance in the ninth inning to possibly come back and tie it up or take the lead. But when you look back at it, those runs hurt us."
No one was more aware of that than Coke.
"I wasn't too happy," he said of Game 5's final result. "Not with [the team]; with me."
The 27-year-old planned on spending the rest of Monday night and Tuesday's off-day thinking about his outing and the adjustments he needs to make the next time he runs out of the bullpen gates.
"Just make my pitches, that's the biggest adjustment," Coke said. "[Utley's pitch] was down the middle. We've had a few issues with the ball in that spot."
Coke was just the latest Yankees reliever to struggle this postseason, as the bridge to closer Mariano Rivera has been shaky at best. Late-inning pitchers Phil Hughes (16.20 ERA) and Joba Chamberlain (4.50 ERA) have been unreliable, forcing Girardi to explore options such as Roberston and lefty Damaso Marte instead.
But in spite of the bullpen's woes, the Yankees have banded together this season, and they aren't about willing to give up on their teammates now.
"These are the guys that got us here," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "And these are the guys we're going to rock with."
"[Coke] knows what he has to do, and we all still have faith in him," Chamberlain said. "That's the advantage you get [being in the bullpen] -- you don't have to wait four days to get your next shot."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.