Pitcher’s mound a disaster area

The pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium was a rough place to be Monday night. Baseballs seemed to be aimed at the area all night. Two Toronto pitchers were removed from the game after being hit by line drives. Rafael Soriano, who was struck in the right hand by a liner Sunday at Cleveland, had the roughest time on the mound, however.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi kidded reporters before the game when asked about Soriano’s condition. “I just shook hands with him, and he’s fine,” Girardi said.

The skipper didn’t get to shake Soriano’s hand after the last out, which is customary after a relief pitcher notches a save. Soriano blew a save for only the third time in 36 opportunities this year as he gave up a three-run home run to Colby Rasmus with two out in the ninth inning that turned a 6-4 Yankees lead into a 7-6 deficit.

Fortunately for Soriano and the Yankees, Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run off Casey Janssen that sent the game into extra innings. It was not a good night for closers.

And it was from the mound that Derek Lowe made a costly error as pinch runner Mike McCoy went all the way to third base after a wild pickoff attempt at first base. Excellent base running by McCoy on a slow roller by Adeiny Hechavarrria resulted in the deciding run. Third baseman Jayson Nix made a fine, charging play, and McCoy broke for the plate the moment Nix released his throw to first base. Eric Chavez playing first base threw home but had no shot at McCoy.

The Blue Jays stopped a seven-game losing streak with the 8-7, 11-inning victory. The Yanks had their lead in the American League East shrink to 3 ½ games over the Orioles, who jumped over the Rays and into second place.

Even worse news for the Yankees was the possible loss of Mark Teixeira for the remainder of the homestand and perhaps even longer. Tex came out of the game after scoring a run in the fourth inning because of a left calf strain.

“I’m concerned,” Girardi said after the game. “It is hard to replace middle-of-the-lineup guys, especially a switch hitter who helps to break up our lefties.”

On the positive side, Alex Rodriguez, another middle-of-the-order guy who has been disabled since July 25 with a broken bone in his left hand, got the okay to take batting practice Tuesday.

Soriano’s failure took a deserving victory away from David Phelps, who had another solid if not spectacular outing for the Yankees as a spot starter. Phelps was victimized by the long ball as home runs by Adam Lind and Yorvit Torrealba accounted for three of the four runs he allowed in 6 1/3 innings.

The ball was carrying well in the humid air. Robinson Cano smacked two home runs and Nick Swisher one. Yet in the eighth the Yanks played some small-ball as Russell Martin sacrificed Chavez into scoring position. Chavez had singled on another ball off a pitcher. An insurance run there would have been nice, but Andruw Jones and Ichiro Suzuki both grounded out.

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