NEW YORK (AP) — On another Bronx night filled with controversy, Alex Rodriguez was pinch hit for once again.
Eric Chavez batted in place of slumping A-Rod and ended Thursday night’s Game 4 — a 2-1 victory that forced a decisive Game 5 on Friday — with a lineout to third off Jim Johnson.
“I just do what I’m told,” Chavez said. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Now it’s up to CC Sabathia to show he’s an ace, taking the mound Friday night against Jason Hammel in a rematch of Game 1 starters.
“It’s time to go,” Sabathia said. “This is a one-game playoff, and this is what we play for. We’re here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I’ll be excited and ready to go.”
New York outlasted Baltimore for the AL East title last week. Now the Yankees will try to do it again and advance to the AL championship series against Detroit.
“It’s the same game whether it’s the first game of the season or the postseason,” said Derek Jeter, who shifted to designated hitter because of a sore left foot. “We’re going to try to have fun with it, enjoy it.”
New York had runners on base in each of the first eight innings, but the Yankees went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and dropped to 6 for 28 (.214) in the series.
A-Rod, 2 for 16 (.125) with no RBIs and nine strikeouts, fanned against side-arming right-hander Darren O’Day with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth. Nick Swisher then flied out.
“It’s obviously frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “That was a situation that I could do some damage, and just couldn’t get it done tonight.”
He’s not the only slumping star. Curtis Granderson is 1 for 16 (.125) with nine Ks. Robinson Cano is 2 for 18 (.111) and hitless in his last 11 at-bats. Russell Martin is batting .214, Ichiro Suzuki .200 and Swisher .133.
“There’s really good pitching,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “There’s guys on the other side that are struggling, too. You’re seeing some really good pitching in these four games.”
Girardi won’t know until Friday whether his bullpen will include Joba Chamberlain, who has had enough mound misfortunes to fill a horror film.
He was just another normal hard-throwing young gun before Game 2 of the 2007 division series. Then midges swarmed him on the mound in Cleveland and, with those bugs all around, he threw a tying wild pitch in a game the Indians went on to win 2-1 in 11 innings for a 2-0 series lead.
A torn elbow ligament sidelined him in June 2011, and he was close to his return during spring training when he dislocated his right ankle in a trampoline accident while playing with his son. He finally returned on Aug. 1 — against the Orioles — and developed back into a dependable part of the Yankees’ bullpen.
Matt Wieters led off the 12th with a single to left field, and a large piece of his bat went twirling toward the mound and hit Chamberlain’s surgically repaired pitching elbow. Chamberlain threw down his glove and bent over in pain.
After he was checked out by trainer Steve Donahue, Chamberlain threw three test pitches and came out. The Yankees said his elbow was bruised and X-rays were negative.
“You kind of see how it feels tomorrow and go from there,” Chamberlain said. “It’s definitely not as stiff as it was when it first happened.”
After Hardy’s double — his first RBI of the series, Johnson pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half. No Yankees’ comeback this time, not like in Game 3 when Raul Ibanez batted for A-Rod and hit a tying homer in the ninth and a winning home run in the 12th of a 3-2 win.
“We’ll come out ready and go out there and we’ll fight and try to make it happen,” Ibanez said.
This matchup could hardly be more even. New York and Baltimore have split 22 games this season, with the Yankees outscoring the Orioles 103-101. Over the two extra-inning games, the Orioles’ threw 331 pitches to the Yankees’ 327.
“The baseball gods let you up off the deck if you stay true to the game,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “We’ve got a big challenge ahead of us tomorrow, but we have an opportunity.”
Hours earlier, Girardi wiped his eyes during a pregame moment of silence for his father, who died last weekend. Girardi didn’t tell his players until the death became public Thursday, not wanting to distract them from the task at hand.
Nate McLouth’s fifth-inning home run was offset by Cano’s RBI grounder in the sixth, and McLouth saved a run in the fifth with a leaping catch against the wall in left-center on Jayson Nix’s drive with a man on.
It stayed that way in a battle of the bullpens. Baltimore’s allowed four hits in 7 1-3 scoreless innings, and the Yankees gave up a run and four hits over 6 1-3.
New York wasted a fine outing by Phil Hughes, who allowed one run and four hits in 6 1-3 innings with eight strikeouts and three walks — all leading off innings.
New York had hoped to avoid this. The Yankees wanted to end this series in four games, allowing Sabathia to start the AL championship series opener Saturday night.
Sabathia held off the Orioles in winning the opener 7-2, allowing two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings. The Yankees need him to do it again just to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2010. And if they do get there, Sabathia likely wouldn’t start against until Game 4 on the road.
Like everything with this year’s Yankees, nothing comes easily.
“This is going to be awesome,” said Swisher, who could be playing his final game in pinstripes. “It’s almost inevitable there’s going to be a Game 5. We’re not stressing. We know what we have to do. This place is going to be rocking and rolling.”
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