Eight times this season, left hander C.C. Sabathia has given the Yankees just what they need. The only problem with the number are the losses that have come before it.
Going into their ultra-important series against the Red Sox Thursday night, the Yankees had lost three in a row to Cleveland, but they had the right formula to snap them out of of their funk when Sabathia took the mound.
The veteran southpaw tossed six innings of one run ball as the Yankees scored a 6-2 win over Boston that left them 4 1/2 games behind in the AL East and ahead of the Twins for the top Wild Card spot.
It was the eighth time this season that Sabathia has won a game after a loss. In the process, he dominated the Red Sox as he has been doing this season. The portly lefty is 4-0 vs. Boston and In 26 innings vs. the Red Sox, he has given up 15 hits and three earned runs while posting a 1.04 ERA against their hated rivals.
The game began with a little bit of controversy when the second batter of the game, Red Sox second-baseman Eduardo Nunez, the ex-Yankee, tried to bunt his way on. Sabathia fielded the ball near the third base side of the mound but he threw it high and was charged with an error. The Red Sox tried the same tact when Sabathia faced them at Fenway less than two weeks ago and he was none too pleased about it “Just kinda weak to me”, Sabathia said when questioned about Nunez’ strategy. “It is what it is, shows what they got over there.”
That play seemed to bother the big lefty as he walked Boston’s outstanding rookie Andrew Benentendi and Mookie Betts back-to-back to load the bases with one out but he rebounded to catch Xander Bogaerts looking on three pitches and then he set up Rafael Devers, who had already burned the Yankees this season, to get him swinging with a 3-2 slider. “I was just trying to make pitches,” he said, “I felt good, I was just a little strong and kinda all over the place so I just wanted to calm myself down and make some pitches to get out of the inning.”
Overall, Sabathia is 11-5 with a 3.71 ERA and that is in spite of the time he missed with a knee injury. Twice, he’s been on the disabled list this season. The first time was mid-June when he went down after he suffered a left hamstring strain in Anaheim. (It was no coincidence that the Yankees began to drop off from their high water mark that day). The second time was early last month when he injured his balky right knee. At that time, Sabathia was confident he would not miss much time. Since he’s come back, in three starts, Sabathia has tossed 19 innings and given up four earned runs.
Sabathia is 8-0 following a Yankee loss this season and that has provided a nice comfort level for manager Joe Girardi. “It’s a guy that you’ve been able to count on most of his career after tough losses,” Girardi said, “there’s been a number of them that we’ve had this year and it’s (Sabathia) the guy that pitched and got us back on track.” Sabathia said he doesn’t look at the numbers. “It just so happen (his turn in the rotation) it’s been fallin’ on the days that we haven’t won the night before but I’m not trying to put an extra pressure on going out and trying to do too much,” he said.
Sabathia’s “fire” on the mound has made a positive impression on some of the younger players such as Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez, who slammed his 28th home run and 10th career round tripper against Boston. After the game, Bird smiled when talking about his veteran teammate. “He (Sabathia) steps up for us whenever we need him and it’s fun,” Bird said. “It’s fun seein’ him getting fired up out there.”
Sanchez appreciates the way Sabathia goes about his business. The young catcher was better defensively and he made a big play to end the fifth. With Benentendi on first and one out, Sabathia struck out Mookie Betts and Sanchez completed the “strike ’em out-throw ’em out” double play with a beautiful throw to nail the runner at second. Sabathia was extremely animated coming off the mound. “Gary (Sanchez) throw a strike (to second), that had me fired up,” Sabathia said.
Sanchez finished the month of August with 12 home runs and 25 runs batted in. He has now hit 23 homers and driven in 46 runs in August the past two seasons. “It kinda surprises me when you tell me,” Sanchez said, “because I don’t pay attention to the numbers.”
Bird has homered in two straight games so Girardi is hopeful that his young, left handed bat will start to produce. “He’s swung the bat pretty well since he’s been back,” said the manager. “We all know that Greg Bird has that ability, we’ve seen him do it before so it’s nice to see.”
For Bird, it’s been a long and winding road back. “It’s just great that I’m able to play again and be a part of this team,” said the young, first-baseman.
Getting production from Bird will take some pressure off of Aaron Judge who was finally moved down to sixth in the lineup. Judge was 0 for 2 with 2 walks, a run scored but he did not strikeout.
To their credit, the Yankees have been resilient this season because they’ve absorbed some brutal losses and have been able to
maintain their status in the playoff race. They cannot afford any extended losing streaks at this point of the season. Suffice it to say, Sabathia’s effort against the Red Sox was huge, but they’ll need a lot more if they hope to extend their season.