Wednesday was not a good day for the Yankee pitching staff.
It started off bad with CC Sabathia going on the disabled list with a strained groin that will force him to miss at least two starts and then it got much worse when Casey Kotchman lined a ball off Andy Pettitte's ankle in the top of the fifth of their matinee with the Indians. Pettitte threw one more pitch, but was in visible pain as his front foot came down and Joe Girardi removed him from the game.
The reason for the pain was quickly discovered. Pettitte fractured his left ankle and will miss at least six weeks as a result.
It would be a serious blow even if Sabathia weren't already on the disabled list, but it is doubly painful thanks to the timing. The Yankees will now have to make at least two trips through the rotation without their best two starters of the season, something that could make an already tight race even tighter.
Freddy Garcia, who was supposed to replace Sabathia on Friday, was summoned from the pen to replace Pettitte and he's the logical choice to take the lefty's rotation spot until Pettitte is healthy enough to return. Adam Warren was already on his way to take Sabathia's roster spot and is the likely starter on Friday and beyond in that spot.
There will likely be some calls to make a deal to shore up the rotation, but that's a long shot unless they get bad news about Pettitte's return date. Garcia was in the rotation when the season started and the team has enough faith in him that they've kept him around without a real role since he was dropped to the bullpen.
Now for the good news. The Yankees got 2.1 innings of strong work from Garcia and a monster home run by the insanely hot Robinson Cano to take a 5-3 lead into the ninth and held on in spite of a very sweaty performance from Rafael Soriano.
That means they'll have at least a 4.5-game lead over the Orioles at the close of business on Wednesday, a cushion that feels a lot more necessary in light of the day's developments.