Yankees, Sabathia Stumble in Baltimore

The highly anticipated debut of the New York Yankees $161 million pitcher ended up to be a major fizzle as the Baltimore Orioles took the Bombers and C.C. Sabathia to the woodshed with a 10-5 pounding before 48,607 screaming fans at Camden Yard Monday afternoon.  It was the largest Opening Day crowd in the 18-year history of the park.

Sabathia, who signed with the Yankees in the off-season for the richest contract by a pitcher in baseball history, didn’t make it out of the 5th inning; a familiar sight to Yankees fans during the 2008 season.  The Yankees are counting on Sabathia to eat up major innings during the year.  However, Sabathia struggled with his command from the get-go and left the game after surrendering 6 earned runs on 8 hits.  The six were the most runs he had given up in a game going back to July 25, 2008 against the Cleveland Indians (32 starts).

Opening Day saw Vice-President Joe Biden throw out the first pitch to kick of the Orioles and Yankees 2009 campaigns; a high fastball catcher Chad Moeller had to climb the ladder to get.  He is the first sitting vice-president in history to do so at Camden Yard.  Afterward, the O’s took the field and Derek Jeter strode to the plate to face Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie.  Jeter got the Yankees first hit, singling up the middle, but was left stranded to end the inning.

Sabathia took the mound and immediately had trouble locating his pitches, especially his fastball.  He gave up a leadoff single to Brian Roberts and later uncorked two wild pitches, although the second one should have been handled by catcher Jorge Posada.  The two wild pitches equaled the amount he threw in 253 innings last year.  However, Sabathia was able to keep Baltimore off the boards for the first two frames.

In the third the Yankees took a 1-0 lead on a manufactured run, when Brett Gardner singled to left, and later scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Johnny Damon.

That’s when the Orioles went to work on Sabathia.

Baltimore scored three runs in the bottom of the inning when César Izturis singled, Roberts walked, Adam Jones tripled and Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to score Jones.

The Orioles scored 3 more runs off Sabathia in the 5th when Roberts doubled, and scored after Jones and Markakis hit infield singles. Third baseman Melvin Mora hit another infield single getting Jones to third and moving Markakis up 90 feet.  Sabathia intentionally walked Ty Wigginton to load the bases.   Jones scored on a groundout by Aubrey Huff with Markakis advancing to third.  Sabathia’s afternoon ended after he walked Luke Scott force in a run and reload the bases.

The Yankees bullpen took a beating as well.  After Jonathan Albaladejo threw a scoreless 1-1/3 innings in relief of Sabathia the Orioles tagged relievers Phil Coke and Brian Bruney for two runs each, capped by Izturis’ home run off Coke in the 8th.

The Yankees other big time signee Mark Teixeira had a rough afternoon also.  Teixeira, who went 0-for-4 with walk, stranded four, including two runners on in the 8th after the Yankees had cut the Orioles lead to 6-5 in the seventh.

After the game, Teixeira remarked to reporters about his poor showing.

“I didn’t get it done there,” he said, referring to his groundout with runners at the corners and two outs.

Teixeira, who was born and raised in Maryland approximately 30 minutes south of Baltimore, was lustily booed by the hometown crowd every time his name was announced at the plate or when he made a play on the field.

After the game, Sabathia summed up his afternoon this way.

“I was terrible. I battled from the first inning on,” he told reporters.  “At some point I’m usually able to find it. Today was just one of those days where I didn’t. When I have one of those days, this is the result you get.”

Yankee manager Joe Girardi took the game in stride.

“I guess we can’t go undefeated,” Girardi said. “Yeah, it’s one game. We didn’t execute today.”

Even with the loss the Yankees can point to some positives.  Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui homered and Jeter and Damon went 3-for-5 and 2-for-3 respectively at the top of the order.  So far Girardi’s flip-flopping of the Yankees shortstop and left fielder in the leadoff and No. 2 spot in the order is paying off.

The Yankees and Orioles have Tuesday off before battling again on Wednesday and Thursday to complete their 3-game series.

Notes: Sabathia didn’t record a strikeout for only the 5th time in 253 career starts and Nick Swisher recorded his first official hit a Yankee by getting a pinch-hit double in the 8th inning.

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