The right-hander will try to halt a two-start losing streak when the Yankees resume a three-game interleague series with the visiting San Diego Padres.
With Kevin Brown experiencing back stiffness and Mike Mussina leaving Friday night’s series opener with a bothersome groin, Lieber, who missed nearly two years after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery in 2002, will be relied upon to give the Yankees some much-needed innings.
Mussina departed after the third inning Friday and relievers Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill and Gabe White combined to surrender nine runs over the final six innings as the Padres cruised to a 10-2 win, ending the Yankees’ 13-game interleague winning streak.
Lieber won three of his first four starts for New York, establishing himself as a solid fourth starter behind Mussina, Brown and Javier Vazquez. But he has been battered for 12 runs and 20 hits over 11 innings in back-to-back losses, including last Saturday’s 8-1 setback to Texas.
Lieber was reached for six runs and nine hits over six innings, striking out two without a walk.
“It’s been terrible,” Lieber said. “They hit the ball hard. I’ve got to keep the ball down in all my games. This isn’t the first funk I’ve been in in my career. I’m just going to try to get it hammered out and get ready for my next start.”
The Yankees did get some good news about Brown on Friday. The right-hander underwent an MRI which found no structural damage to his back, helping him avoid a trip to the disabled list. As for Mussina, the Yankees said he was lifted strictly as a precaution after tweaking his groin on a pitch in the third inning. Both Brown and Mussina will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
Friday’s defeat shaved the Yankees’ lead in the AL East to 2 1/2 games over Boston, which beat Los Angeles 2-1.
The Red Sox’s victory, coupled with San Diego’s big win moved the Padres into sole possession of first place in the NL West.