This was CC Sabathia’s take on tonight’s game: “I felt pretty good. Just trying to make pitches. I had some tough situations, got some double plays, and was able to pitch deep in the game.”
Nope. Sorry, CC. That’s not going to get it done. Time for someone else to give it a shot.
“Best game he’s pitched all year,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he was brilliant. He shouldn’t have given up a run. Ground ball after ground ball after ground ball — his sinker was very good, his changeup was good, his slider was good. I thought he had everything working tonight. It was his best performance of the year.”
There’s a lot to be said for the understated way Sabathia goes about his business. He’s calm and methodical, even on a night like tonight, and he’s rarely emotional in the postgame clubhouse. In so many ways, it’s that demeanor that defines him. Others can be more overwhelming, but Sabathia gets it done on nights like tonight when his defense let him down, his bullpen was thin and his lineup was facing David Price.
“I don’t think he really had his best stuff all night,” Chris Stewart said. “He had it here and there, but it just goes to show how good of a pitcher he is and what a battler he is out there. He was able to get out of some big situations, and fortunately we put up some runs for him and he was able to settle down and put it away.”
There has been a lot of inconsistency with this team. The bullpen was a source of stability, but it lost its anchor when Mariano Rivera went down. Robinson Cano has gotten hot lately, but where was he the first month of the season? The rotation beyond Sabathia has been unpredictable.
Then there’s Sabathia, who’s quietly pitched through the eighth inning in each of his past four starts, won each of his past five starts and gotten his ERA down to 3.51 by lowering it with each and every start.
“With the struggles that our rotation has had, he’s kind of saved the bullpen on most nights,” Girardi said. “You can’t say enough about that. It just affects how you use your guys on a daily basis. It affects how you use your left handers. He really changes the complexion of a couple games, not just the one he pitches in. … He’s given us an opportunity every time he’s went out there to pitch, and that’s big, especially with some of the struggles that we’ve had and our lineup struggles. At different times, different people have kind of kept us afloat. CC seems to be the big guy right now.”
• Brett Gardner will miss at least two more weeks after today’s MRI revealed that he has aggravated that same muscle that he strained earlier this season. “The muscle that he strained — that healed — he re-strained it,” Girardi said. “That’s basically what it is. He will not pick up a bat for 10 days, then we’ll go from there. We’re going to be without Gardy for a while here. It’s very unfortunate. He swung the bat well in Triple-A, but somehow he irritated that muscle again.”
• Sabathia had never gotten a win in six head-to-head matchups against Price. “I think guys just didn’t miss pitches,” Girardi said. “They put good swings on (Price) and good at-bats. I thought we put good at-bats on him all night long. This is a guy that’s been really dealing, so I give our guys a lot of credit. They worked really hard for this.”
• Robinson Cano’s home run off Price was only his second extra-base hit off a lefty this season. “I would say we were taking advantage of the fastball because he’s a guy that throws a lot of fastballs, especially for strikes,” Cano said. “In previous starts against us, we were taking a lot of inside pitches for strike three. Now you see a lot of guys today swinging.”
• Girardi didn’t want to use Dave Robertson because of his recent workload, but Rafeal Soriano assured Girardi that he was fine to pitch three days in a row. That’s why he came out for the save. “He told me he was okay,” Girardi said. “Sori’s done it before. He’s much more experienced (than Robertson). We talked to him today, and he said he was fine. That was why I went with him. He has a track record of doing it and being okay.”
• Sabathia hasn’t started a season 5-0 since 2007, when he won the Cy Young Award with Cleveland. His 53 strikeouts match the most he’s ever had through his first seven starts (he also reached that number in 2007). Tonight was his 29th career 10-strikeout game, and he ended it with seven of his last 10 outs coming on strikeouts.
• Biggest strikeout of the night had to be B.J. Upton to strand two runners in the seventh. Even Sabathia showed plenty of emotion after that one. He was upset at himself for letting Sean Rodriguez single in the previous at-bat. “I know I was fired up,” Stewart said. “He was executing pitches and got out of some big situations. I think I did a couple of fist pumps back there behind the plate. If he wasn’t fired up, I was going to make him fired up.”
• So Stewart isn’t officially Sabathia’s personal catcher, but those two have worked extremely well together. “He’s been calling great games,” Sabathia said. “He studies a lot, and we go into the meetings and he knows exactly what we should be doing. He watches a lot of video and gives me the confidence to go out and throw the pitch.”
• There seems to be less confidence in Eduardo Nunez, who was lifted for defense after the fifth inning. He was 2-for-2 with a walk and two stolen bases on offense, but just like last year, he once again leads the Yankees in errors despite being a part-time player. He’s made one error at shortstop top, one at second base and two at third base. An error in left field was overturned by the league and ruled a hit.
• Girardi on Nunez: “I think we’re going to have to evaluate a little bit how much we move him around, in a sense. Maybe it’s just difficult for him, all the different throws, for a kid that was used to playing shortstop. A lot of times, a utility guy is a guy that has experience; has played some short, maybe some other places, then you ask him to play one other position. We’ve basically asked him to play three or four different positions that he had never played before until he got here. We’re just going to have to keep working with him. You can see how valuable his bat is and his speed is, it’s just been difficult for him, the adjustments.”
• It was the first time this season that the Yankees committed more than one error in a game. They were the last time in baseball to commit multiple errors in a game this season.
• Curtis Granderson has nine home runs in his past 13 games. … Derek Jeter tied Willie Randolph for fifth place on the Yankees all-time walks list. Jeter also had his 10,000th career at-bat in the sixth inning. … Stewart has a hit in five of his past six starts. … Cano had gone 63 at-bats without a home run before hitting one Sunday and another today.
• Girardi said the Yankees still had not heard from Major League Baseball about whether Eric Chavez has been cleared to come off the disabled list. They’ll find out tomorrow.
Associated Press photos