Rocky 1st inning hurts Sabathia; Yankees recover
CC Sabathia was so bad in the first inning of the AL
championship series Friday night that his best pitch might have
been one that bounced off the backstop.
It sure wasn’t the one that Josh Hamilton put over the wall. Or
the four in a row that walked the No. 8 hitter.
Pitching nine days after his last outing, Sabathia opened the
ALCS looking like anything but the ace who led the New York Yankees
to the World Series title last year.
The Yankees found a way to win anyway, turning a 5-0 deficit
when Sabathia left into a 6-5 victory in Game 1.
”They’ve bailed me out before,” Sabathia said. ”I’ve got to
go out and pitch better next time out.”
Sabathia allowed five runs in four innings, by far his worst
start in six postseason games since joining the Yankees. It also
was the shortest of his 36 starts in the regular season and
playoffs in 2010.
”He was definitely off today,” manager Joe Girardi said. ”But
he didn’t give up 10 runs. He kept it at five and we were able to
Sabathia wasn’t comfortable from the start.
Tugging at his uniform, stepping on and off the rubber, sweating
heavily, he gave up three runs in the opening inning. It could have
been worse if the pitch that ricocheted off the wall behind home
plate hadn’t turned into an inning-ending out.
”I felt great, I felt strong,” he said. ”I just had no
fastball command. … I don’t want to make any excuses. I couldn’t
throw the ball over the plate.”
With New York using a four-man rotation, Sabathia will be back
on regular rest for his next start in Game 5 on Wednesday night –
that is, if the series goes that long.
Sabathia wasn’t sharp in the opener last round, either, which he
blamed on a long layoff. He actually had a longer wait this time
but threw more in hopes of keeping his mechanics intact.
It didn’t work.
He opened with a walk, then a hard-hit single. Both scored on
the homer by Hamilton, who had been 1 for 10 against Sabathia. That
put the Yankees down 3-0 before they had recorded an out.
Two more hits and a walk loaded the bases with two outs,
bringing Derek Jeter to the mound for what appeared to be more
advice than encouragement.
Disaster seemed to strike when Sabathia uncorked a pitch that
went to the wall a good 40 feet beyond home plate. Instead, a
perfect carom brought it back to catcher Jorge Posada and he made a
perfect toss to Sabathia covering the plate. He tagged Nelson
Cruz’s left elbow just before his foot reached the plate for the
final out of the inning.
”That’s the difference in the game, maybe,” Girardi said.
”It’s a 6-6 game and maybe we’re still playing.”
Sabathia trudged back to the dugout having thrown 36 pitches
that inning – only 16 strikes. Girardi was astounded that Sabathia
threw 20 balls, calling it ”usually about six innings of work for
”I have to throw more strikes,” Sabathia said. ”When you’re
up, down, all over the place, you don’t get calls. I was trying to
battle and get them to put the ball in play. But I can’t walk
The Rangers got to him again in the fourth, with Michael Young
driving in two runs with a two-out double. Sabathia struck out
Hamilton looking to end the threat, then the big lefty went to the
Yankees dugout and didn’t return.
Sabathia’s line was five runs and six hits, with four walks and
three strikeouts. He also had a balk and a wild pitch. That doesn’t
include the really wild one; it went down as merely a ball because
it led to an out.
The bullpen was as good as Sabathia was bad. Relievers Joba
Chamberlain, Dustin Moseley, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera allowed
just one hit and two walks in five innings.
”You had an uncharacteristic start for him, but that happens,”
said Brett Gardner, whose infield single triggered a five-run
eighth inning for the Yankees. ”We’ve got guys in the bullpen who
can come in and shut the door.”
Still, Sabathia’s numbers were a surprise. He was so good last
postseason, especially the ALCS, allowing only two runs over 16
innings and named MVP.
Now the Yankees must hope Sabathia is not headed toward a repeat
of his 2007 ALCS. Pitching for Cleveland, he was crushed in Games 1
One bit of relief for New York was that Sabathia didn’t get hurt
on the play at the plate.
Then again, Girardi said, ”If there is a collision at home
plate, CC is going to win most of them.”