It's been a common theme throughout much of the season for the Yankees: The starting pitcher produces a stellar outing but a lack of support denies the team a victory.
Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Orioles had a similar design, but this time it was the Yankees' reliable bullpen that let them down.
The Yankees brought a 3-0 lead into the seventh and their pitchers were riding a streak of 18 consecutive scoreless innings in the series before the Orioles scored seven runs in the inning, thanks mostly to relievers Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain.
Kelley and Chamberlain each allowed a three-run homer and combined to allow four inherited runners to score, wasting Andy Pettitte's fourth consecutive quality start.
Entering the game, the Yankees' bullpen had posted an MLB-best 1.05 ERA and a 3-0 record since Aug. 16.
Those figures changed markedly Sunday.
"We just had a bad day, all of us," Logan said. "It's just one of those days where everyone had their bad game all in one game."
After pitching six shutout innings, Pettitte was pulled after allowing singles to Mike Morse and Danny Valencia to start the seventh. He had thrown 93 pitches.
Kelley came on to face Matt Wieters, whom Pettitte had struck out twice, and allowed a hard-hit single to left-center to cut the Yankees' lead to 3-1. J.J. Hardy then lined the first pitch he saw just over the glove of a leaping Curtis Granderson, off the top of the rightfield wall and into the stands for a three-run shot to give Baltimore a sudden, stunning 4-3 lead.
Logan replaced Kelley (4-2) and gave up a bunt single to Brian Roberts and a walk to Nick Markakis, making it six straight Orioles to reach base.
Then it was Chamberlain's turn. Manny Machado popped up a bunt for the first out, but Adam Jones crushed a 1-and-1 slider 424 feet to center for a home run and a 7-3 lead.
"It was one of those things where I knew it was to center, so if it was going to stay in, it wasn't going to stay in by much," Chamberlain said. "And obviously, he made me pay for the mistake."
Chamberlain had faced 16 consecutive batters without allowing a hit before surrendering the home run. Most of those at-bats, however, were not in tight situations, as he has been used mainly in lopsided contests. Since Aug. 2, Chamberlain had pitched only one-third of an inning in a one-run game before Sunday's appearance.
"I mean, we might need him, and that's the bottom line," manager Joe Girardi said. "You're going to need him in situations. The inning didn't work out the way we wanted because we used Kelley, and the outs that we thought he would get, he didn't get. Then Boone didn't get the outs we thought he would get. So we had to make some changes."
Pettitte, on the other hand, looked sharp. He ended up being charged with two runs and wound up pitching six-plus innings and allowing seven hits and no walks with three strikeouts.
In his last five starts, Pettitte is 3-0 and has allowed four earned runs in 30 innings.
"That's always frustrating when your starter gives you six good innings and we can't back him up on it and it turns into a loss," Logan said. "We just didn't do our job today."