Huff. Miller. Marshall.
No, not Sam Huff, Dennis Miller and Jim Marshall.
David Huff. Jim Miller. Brett Marshall.
Clinging desperately to the shreds known as their wild-card hopes, the Yankees and Joe Girardi did only what Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and the angry injury gods have dealt their bullpen.
They pitched three guys who sounded like they belonged at an NFL stadium rather than Yankee Stadium in this sobering 13-9 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon. You can argue that the forever-snide comic Dennis Miller didn't belong in the "Monday Night Football" booth with Al Michaels in 2000 and 2001. Our only comeback after this football score is that Huff, Miller and Marshall didn't belong in the biggest rivalry in sports during a September playoff chase.
But, hey, it's like Miller once said in response to the protests over the use of the nickname Redskins in Washington: "Things have gotten so bad in Dallas, as I entered the stadium tonight, I saw a picket line of guys in 10-gallon hats and spurs protesting Dallas' use of the nickname the Cowboys." Things have gotten so bad with the Yankees pitching staff there was a picket line of male cattle on East 161st Street protesting the Yankees' use of the term bullpen.
Technically, we can't blame this one all on the relievers. Hughes, an All-Star in 2010 and once considered a future mainstay of the starting rotation, had been so bad in losing 13 of 17 decisions that Girardi pulled him from the rotation and was forced give Huff his first start since last year with Cleveland.
The results were disastrous. Huff, who had been sharp in allowing only two runs over 16 relief innings, gave up nine runs in 3 1/3.
"He left some balls up in the zone," Girardi said. "A 3-0 fastball to Napoli [homer!], a changeup to Gomes [homer!]. That's where [the Red Sox] are right now. They're not missing."
As your faithful correspondent for a publication smack in the middle of Yankees vs. Red Sox, we're acutely aware there are two sides to the story. The fact that the Red Sox have scored 34 runs in three wins in this series — not to mention an ungodly 54 in four games — is not lost on anybody. John Lackey, who had a team-low 3.7 in runs support per game — fifth worst in the majors — had nothing to complain about this time. He gave up seven runs over 5 2/3 and still won big.
Big Papi, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks, they're on an absolute tear. Shane Victorino has had the biggest hits in this series, Jonny Gomes knocked in four runs, Xander Bogaerts drove a 3-1 fastball off Miller so deep into the left-field stands that, wow, you caught a glimpse of why he's considered a top-shelf prospect.
Despite the postgame hubbub about a limping Derek Jeter being removed by Girardi in the sixth inning and a precautionary CT scan on his surgically repaired left ankle that came back negative, we could argue we'll look back in October and remember that the biggest thing about this September Saturday was Jacoby Ellsbury's foot. After getting an MRI, he headed to Vail, Colo., with his foot in a protective boot to have more extensive testing to determine if there is a fracture in his right navicular bone. He's out indefinitely and is getting a second opinion from specialist Dr. Thomas Clanton.
The injury was initially suffered on Aug. 28 when he fouled a pitch off his foot. He aggravated it stealing second base Thursday against the Yankees.
"Jake's frustrated," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He feels like he can play right now. But at the direction of the medical people, we've got to be careful. I can tell you this: Jacoby wants to be on the field. He's kind of [upset] he's not here right now, to be honest with you."
To be honest with you, not half as upset as the Yankee fans are right now with Hughes, Joba and what has become of the tattered, splattered pitching staff.
The Yankees have scored 25 times in the series, and they're looking at getting swept. Before the game, there was John Sterling on the radio saying that if the Yankees hadn't blown three late-inning leads on this homestand, they'd be in a tie with the Rays for the second wild card. The Friday night loss and one where they blew a 3-0 lead to the Orioles on Sept. 1 were the only times where they blew a two-run lead at home in 2013 (35-2). By 5 p.m. Saturday, according to Elias Sports Bureau, they had lost three consecutive games while scoring at least seven runs in each game for the first time in franchise history. It's also the first time in American League history, according to STATS Inc., a team has scored eight or more runs in three straight home games and lost them all.
The Red Sox, according to Elias, are the first visiting team to score 12-plus runs in consecutive games in the same series against the Yankees since the 1907 Senators, and the first visitors since the 1912 Red Sox to score nine-plus on three straight days against the Yankees (or, the Highlanders, as they were known at the time).
It's official. The pain is historic.
"Offensively, we're putting up a lot of points on the board," GM Brian Cashman said sadly. "It's the pitching, obviously."
With their bullpen shredded, the Yankees badly needed length from Huff. They got 10 outs. David Robertson is out a few days with tendinitis in his shoulder. Boone Logan felt some physical pain pitching to Napoli Friday night before Napoli inflicted mental pain with a seventh-inning grand slam. Logan is out at least three days with a left forearm injury. Shawn Kelley is already out with an inflamed triceps.
And then there's Hughes and Joba. On Friday night out of the bullpen, Hughes gave up four runs to get one out. Joba, who took the loss on Thursday night, was ineffective in the first two games of the series. It's almost unbelievable, isn't it, that Hughes and Chamberlain once were seen as the franchise's pitching future?
So there was Huff. There was Miller, who had pitched all season at Triple A after being claimed on waivers from the A's, making his New York debut. He became the franchise-record 54th player to appear in one season. And there was Marshall, who except for a Napoli solo homer in the ninth, did fine over the final 4 1/3 innings in his second appearance for the Yankees.
There was a full-circle feeling to this debacle. Marshall, who pitched in Triple A all season, had made his MLB debut May 15, throwing 5 2⁄3 innings against Seattle after Hughes allowed seven runs in two-thirds of an inning in the worst start of his career.
"Let's not kid ourselves," Farrell said. "Ellsbury in the leadoff spot, with the stolen-base ability, the talent that he has, this is a guy we're going to miss for the time being."
On this day, however, the Red Sox called up Jackie Bradley Jr. and just kept on scoring runs. The Yankees called on Huff, Miller and Marshall and they just kept on giving them up. In a clubhouse afterward, Cashman called Jeter "the king of toughness" and that we'll have to see where the captain stands physically Sunday. Actually, the fans out in the bleachers are the kings of toughness these days. They're the ones catching all those Red Sox home runs with their bare hands.