By the time Boone Logan served up Josh Donaldson's tiebreaking homer in the eighth inning Sunday, the Yankees already had enough to worry about. A 5-4 loss to the A's felt like the least of their problems.
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Eduardo Nunez was pulled for the top of the fifth because of rib-cage inflammation that should cost him a game or two -- minimum -- of the upcoming Rockies series at Coors Field. Sunday's MRI showed no structural damage, but he said it hurt when he tried to swing or throw.
According to Nunez, he had experienced discomfort in that spot since the morning but told Girardi he could play. It wasn't until Nunez complained again in the on-deck circle in the fourth inning that the manager yanked him.
"He told me it felt irritated,'' said Girardi, who told Nunez, "You're done.''
Girardi figures he will make do with Jayson Nix at shortstop while they wait for Nunez to heal, as the Yankees have done at a number of positions. But they showed the strain of playing shorthanded Sunday when Girardi -- without either David Robertson (hamstring) or Joba Chamberlain (oblique) available -- had to use Logan for the eighth.
Logan got Yoenis Cespedes, who hit a two-run homer off Pettitte in the fifth inning, to fly to leftfield. But next up was Donaldson, another righthanded hitter, and he crushed the deciding homer.
Pettitte, still fuming at himself long after the game was over, felt partially responsible for not providing the length the Yankees needed with such a depleted bullpen. "Boone's out there in a situation he'd never be in,'' Pettitte said.
Before the game, Girardi described Pettitte's last outing as a "clunker'' and said he'd be "floored'' if his cutter didn't return against the A's. But he struggled again, surrendering four walks and four hits, including two of Oakland's three homers.
"My cutter is non-existent right now,'' Pettitte said. "It's been a long, long time since I haven't had a feel for my pitches.''
Pettitte had walked only seven in 322/3 innings in his previous five starts, and that's 10 earned runs in 91/3 innings for Pettitte in his last two outings. Only a three-run rally in the sixth by the Yankees allowed him to avoid a third straight loss.
Even more troubling than the numbers is Pettitte's inability to fix a problem he is acutely aware of. He insists that his pregame bullpen warmups are fine, but something -- for some reason -- goes haywire once the game begins.
Pettitte, who turns 41 next month, also maintains that there is nothing physically wrong with him. "I wish I could tell you something is hurt,'' he said. "I could pitch much better than this with something hurting.''
Despite Pettitte's confusion, Girardi refused to panic afterward. When asked if he is worried, he shook his head. "No,'' Girardi said. "Not one bit. If he was 26 or 32, we wouldn't even ask the question. I think two starts is way too little to make a big deal out of it.''
The Yankees tied the score at 4 in the sixth on Ichiro Suzuki's RBI double and Lyle Overbay's two-out, two-run single. They also had a great chance to tie it in the ninth. With Brett Gardner on second base after a single and wild pitch, the A's chose to intentionally walk Robinson Cano with two outs even though Vernon Wells -- 6-for-12 with two homers off Grant Balfour -- was on deck. The move worked when Balfour whiffed Wells.
"He won that battle,'' Wells said. "I'm sure there'll be plenty more.''
Notes & quotes: Girardi suggested before the game that the Yankees may have changed their minds about putting Curtis Granderson back in centerfield when he returns from the disabled list. "We might toy around with some other things,'' he said. Such as? "Left, right,'' he said. "Other things.'' Granderson has been playing all three outfield positions during his rehab stint. He apparently is fine after getting hit on the right triceps by a pitch Saturday . . . Robertson played catch again and expects to be ready for Tuesday night's series opener at Coors Field.