There was a strikeout. Then an 0-2 count. Then the Rays first home run of the night.
Another strikeout. First pitch ball, then a single. First pitch ball, then a triple. Then a first-pitch homer.
Just like that — swiftly, stunningly, effectively — the game was out of hand in an instant. The Rays had a 4-0 lead, and CC Sabathia had put the Yankees in a hole that they had no chance of escaping against Matt Moore.
“It was fast,” Francisco Cervelli said. “Longoria, I wasn’t expecting he would hit the 1-0 changeup. He hit it so well. And then Sean Rodriguez came, curveball (for a ball) and the next pitch is supposed to be (a fastball) down and away. That ball stayed middle. He had a triple there. And then Escobar’s first pitch, boom, again, with the same pitch. … Everything happened too fast, a couple pitches (then a) home run. But I’ve just got to be ready in that situation. Be ready. Make the hitters uncomfortable.”
That’s what Sabathia noticed. He didn’t seem frustrated by the quickness with which the Rays took that lead, it was the way he let them do it. His fastball velocity was the best it had been all season — climbing up to 93, averaging a little over 91 mph — but he wasn’t attacking early.
“I was just telling myself to be nice and easy, and I think that took some of my aggressiveness away in coming after guys and letting the ball go,” Sabathia said. “I’m usually aggressive. It’s just one of those things tonight where I don’t know what I was thinking. I felt like I had better stuff than I’ve had (in previous starts). It was just a bad day.”
Sabathia’s improved velocity, the fact he let just one of his final 18 hitters as far as second base, and the fact this was his fourth straight start of at least seven innings — all of it was relatively meaningless after that first inning.
“That’s the truth, he wasn’t aggressive,” Cervelli said. “I think they don’t give us the time to go in. When you fall behind in the count, like ball one, it’s hard to go in. When he started mixing pitches and showing pitches in, he was better. But the first inning, everything was flat.”
• Of course, it’s worth noting that Matt Moore was going to be awfully tough to beat tonight. The Yankees lineup is especially depleted against lefties, and Moore is quickly emerging as one of the better lefties in the game. He’s 4-0 this season, and after allowing one run through eight innings, his ERA actually rose from 1.00 to 1.04. “He gave you opportunities to hit a pitch,” Vernon Wells said. “And if you missed it, you were going to be walking back to the dugout. He’s got great stuff. A quality arm, can overpower you, can beat you with his offspeed stuff. He’s good.”
• Moore is the first starter in Rays history to win his first four starts of a season. Yankees right-handed hitters went 0-for-15 against him. Both Yankees hits were from Robinson Cano.
• Speaking of right-handed hitters… “(Kevin Youkilis) might be a couple of more days,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. He felt good, then he went through BP and (his back) tightened up a little bit. It is what it is and we’ll get through it.”
• In his past 12 games, Cano is hitting .423 with 11 runs, six doubles, six homers and 14 RBI. This was his eighth multi-hit game.
• The Yankees have now homered in their first nine road games, their longest such streak since 2000 when they also homered in their first nine road games.
• Sabathia allowed three home runs — two by Ryan Roberts — for the ninth time in 388 career starts. The Rays are the only team to have hit three or more homers against him more than once, and they’ve done it three times. Sabathia has struggled in this park. “It’s a different lineup every time,” Sabathia said. “It’s just one of those things where I haven’t pitched really good against them.”
• Vernon Wells said he’s fine after his diving, sliding catch in left field. But he does have a pretty long cut on the back of his leg. “Somehow I ended up spiking myself, but I haven’t figured that one out yet,” Wells said. “I have to watch the replay and see how I ended up spiking my thigh.”
• On the popup that hit the catwalk and was declared foul after Cervelli caught it: “The ball was over the speakers,” Cervelli said. “And it came back, but I don’t know the rules that much. I saw where it was, it stayed there for a couple seconds and came back.” Girardi said the umpire told him it hit the catwalk in foul territory, which made the ball foul.
• Final word to Wells, looking at the positive and the negative: “I think the big thing is, CC settled in after that (first inning). That’s what the good ones do. You’re not going to dominate every inning, but you give runs early, it’s a matter of keeping your team there. And he did that. We just weren’t able to do anything against Moore tonight.”
Associated Press photos