Weary bullpen costly to Phelps and Yanks

With a spent bullpen from Wednesday night’s 14-inning marathon, the Yankees did not have much fortification for Thursday night’s starter, David Phelps. Looking at the 9-3 Indians final, it may be hard to believe that it was a 3-0 game through six innings and all Yankees at that.

Phelps sustained his fourth straight no-decision, and this one really hurt. He pitched very well in spots, wiggled out of danger at other times and was working on a five-hit shutout going into the seventh inning. But when the first two Cleveland batters singled, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to make a change. Three batters later, the Yankees’ lead was gone.

Lefthander Matt Thornton gave up an infield single to Jason Kipnis that loaded the bases. Asdrubal followed with a drive into the right field corner for a bases-clearing triple that tied the score and left Phelps with yet another ND. Jacoby Ellsbury’s dazzling catch of a Michael Brantley prevented another Indians hit, but it was a sacrifice fly that gave the Tribe the lead.

Righthander Jim Miller could not stop the bleeding in the eighth when the Indians struck for five more runs on five hits, including two-run home runs by catcher Roberto Perez, who had a strong major-league debut (3-for-4, 1 walk, 2 RBI) and Carlos Santana.

The turnaround was a real shame for Phelps, who has not had much to show for an impressive string of starts. Over his past six outings, Phelps is 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA. Considering the state of the Yankees’ rotation, four-fifths of which have landed on the disabled list, Phelps has proved a real boon for the Yankees.

The Indians’ late outburst only served to illuminate early missed opportunities by the Yankees to pile on to their lead. They left 11 runners on base over the first six innings, twice standing the bags loaded.

A couple of Triple A call-ups were responsible for the Yankees’ offense. Zelous Wheeler hit a two-run home run in the fourth. One inning later, Yangervis Solarte, just back from Scranton with Carlos Beltran on the 7-day concussion list, singled in a run. Derek Jeter had two hits for his 1,000th career multi-hit game, only the sixth major-leaguer since 1900 to reach that plateau. Ichiro Suzuki’s pinch single in the eighth inning was his 2,800th hit in the majors on top of the 1,278 he had in Japan. Suzuki might have been called on to pitch if Miller had been unable to get the third out of the eighth inning.

The loss was a blow to the Yankees going into a three-game set at Baltimore. The Orioles beat Washington to move four games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East standings, which means the Yankees cannot move into first place even with a series sweep the weekend before the All-Star break.

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