CLEVELAND -- The New York Yankees are on the brink of being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.
Despite Andy Pettitte's outstanding performance, the Yankees lost, 2-1, to the Cleveland Indians in 11 innings last night to fall behind in the best-of-five American League Division Series two games to zero.
It was a loss filled with weird phenomena: only three hits by the normally potent Yankees offense, a bizarre infestation of bugs at rocking Jacobs Field from the eighth inning on and the first blown save of rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain's career.
Luis Vizcaino took the loss after giving up a bases-loaded single to Travis Hafner with two outs and a full count in the bottom of the 11th.
"I want to throw my best pitch," a red-eyed Vizcaino said, "and he was able to get a hit. It's tough."
Vizcaino walked Kenny Lofton to lead off the 11th on four pitches, though Vizcaino thought a couple of balls should have been ruled strikes.
He then gave up a 1-2 ground-ball single to Franklin Gutierrez. Casey Blake's sacrifice bunt moved Lofton and Gutierrez up a base, and the Yankees intentionally walked Grady Sizemore to load the bases.
Vizcaino got Asdrubal Cabrera to pop up, but Travis Hafner lined a full-count single to right-center field to drive in Lofton.
"I came up in a great situation," Hafner said. "Bases loaded, two outs. That's what you dream about as a kid; 3-2, threw me a changeup, was able to stay back on it. Put a good swing on it and hit a line drive up the middle."
The Yankees have fought from behind this season since their record dropped to 21-29. They have no more margin for error , though.
"There's no doubt it hurts," Pettitte said. "We're going home, and we've got to win three games."
Said Derek Jeter: "We've got to win a game. That's it. You can't say nothing about 0-2."
The Yankees led 1-0 for most of the game, thanks to Melky Cabrera's third-inning home run off Indians starter Fausto Carmona. Carmona gave up just one run on three hits and two walks in nine innings. Pettitte pitched 6 1/3 shutout innings, allowing seven hits and walking two.
Pettitte, whom catcher Jorge Posada called "outstanding," exited with runners on first and second and one out in the seventh. Chamberlain struck out Gutierrez swinging on three pitches and got Blake to fly out. The bugs arrived en masse during Doug Mientkiewicz's at-bat to finish the top of the eighth.
When Chamberlain returned for the bottom of the eighth, he looked like a different pitcher. Despite a brief delay to be sprayed with bug repellent, he was covered with midges.
Chamberlain walked leadoff hitter Sizemore, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Asdrubal Cabrera's sacrifice bunt advanced Sizemore to third. Hafner lined out. Another wild pitch by Chamberlain allowed Sizemore to score the tying run.
"Yeah, they [the insects] bugged me," Chamberlain said, "but you've got to deal with it. I'll never make excuses for myself, and I let my guys down. That's the bottom line."
At least as much blame for the loss should go to the punchless Yankees offense as to Vizcaino and Chamberlain, though. The Yankees managed just three hits last night and are a measly 8-for-66 (.121) so far in the series. Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui are each hitless in the first two games of the postseason.
"We just really didn't get anything going," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Normally, we're very good at manufacturing stuff, and we just were shut down. Carmona was terrific."
Said Rodriguez: "For our offense, three hits in 11 innings is unacceptable. We're going to come out swinging on Sunday."
They have to come out hitting, or their season will be over.
Kat O'Brien writes for Newsday.