New York had a fearsome outfield when it faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1960 World Series. The Yankees’ newest left fielder, meanwhile, is 28 years old and only now getting a shot in the majors.
After losing to the Pirates for the first time since their World Series matchup, the Yankees will again have to make do without two of their starting outfielders when the teams play the middle game of their series Wednesday night.
Pittsburgh (37-40) was the only team in the majors that had not beaten New York (41-36) in a regular-season game, but it won the opener of this series 12-5 on Tuesday night. In six previous matchups between the teams, the Pirates were outscored 49-19.
It was also Pittsburgh’s first win over New York since Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, when Bill Mazeroski ended the game with a home run.
The Yankees had Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris in the outfield in that game, which was their last contest at Pittsburgh. In Tuesday’s game, though, New York was short-handed, with Johnny Damon (foot) and Hideki Matsui (knee) unable to play the outfield.
Damon, hitting a major league-best .413 since May 20, is expected to miss another day or two. Matsui, meanwhile, has played just 24 games in the field due to his injury, and can’t be used as a designated hitter because the Yankees are in an NL park.
Melky Cabrera was in center field and Bobby Abreu played right field, but the Yankees were forced to call up Justin Christian from Triple-A to fill out their starting outfield. Christian, who had two hits and drove in two runs in his first career game, is expected to be back in left field Wednesday.
“He can create some havoc on the base paths, he plays very good defense, he had some important hits in the later innings,” New York manager Joe Girardi said of the 28-year-old Christian, who has never been considered much of a prospect. “I liked him because he brings an element that can cause some confusion. He’s a good story, too.”
The Yankees had won eight of 10 and 13 of 18, but had trouble against the Pirates’ lineup. They’ll now send prized right-hander Joba Chamberlain (1-2, 2.36 ERA) to the mound. Chamberlain has posted a 2.45 ERA in four starts since joining the rotation, but did not receive a decision in any of those contests.
The right-hander struck out a career-high nine versus San Diego on Thursday as New York won 2-1. He gave up one run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Chamberlain has not received a decision in two starts and one relief appearance in interleague play, posting a 2.13 ERA. This will be his first appearance against Pittsburgh.
He’ll be facing a Pirates team that has been surprisingly successful at the plate this season with 382 runs—the fifth-highest total in the majors.
But Zach Duke (4-4, 3.91 ERA), who will start for the Pirates on Wednesday, didn’t get any runs to work with in his last start. He gave up six hits in seven innings as Pittsburgh beat Toronto 1-0 in 12 innings on Friday night.
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in seven interleague starts. He has never faced the Yankees.
Duke is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three outings at PNC Park, where the Pirates are 24-16.
“Every time we seem to have a (big crowd), we end up playing well,” Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson said. “Everybody knows this is a sports town, and they would go crazy if the Pirates were in some sort of race at the end.”