In his five seasons with the Yankees, CC Sabathia has allowed seven runs three times. Today was one of them. Sabathia hasn’t won a game since April 27, and he’s allowed 28 hits in his past three starts. As you might expect, none of that sits very well with the Yankees ace. Here are three perspectives — Sabathia himself, pitching coach Larry Rothschild and manager Joe Girardi — discussing what’s going on with the Yankees No. 1 starter.
SABATHIA: “I’m hurting the team. I’m not helping the team out. I just need to get better. … With this crew, this team that we have, we battle to the end. We did it tonight. I just didn’t give us a chance. Just not being able to keep the game close and giving these guys a chance to feel like they can come back and win the game.”
ROTHSCHILD: “Well, I don’t blame him (for being frustrated). Look, this is a guy that has a lot of pride and has pitched really well for us, and he’ll pitch well again for us. It’s some inconsistencies. He’s missing some spots at times, and he’s not getting away with any pitches. I think you’ll see that all modify itself and take care of itself. Every bad pitch he made, it got hit, and there’s no excuses, but it’s more inconsistencies than anything else.”
GIRARDI: “I think he’s just trying to pitch. To be as successful as he’s been in his career, I think you have to be pretty strong mentally because there’s times we’ve seen him, when things don’t go his way, he figures out ways to get on a roll. He’s been through a lot, so there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll figure it out.”
The easiest thing to notice is that Sabathia’s velocity has been declining for two years now, and he’s now sitting in the low 90s without reaching up to 95 or 96. Of course, the Yankees point out that Sabathia had a strong stretch in April when he was pitching with that same velocity.
SABATHIA: “I feel fine. It’s just one of those things. I feel like the ball’s coming out pretty good. It’s getting on guys. I’m just not making pitches. The ball Rodriguez hit cut right back over the middle. It was just a bad pitch. … I’m just not being aggressive and throwing in like I normally do. That has nothing to do with my velocity; I’m just not doing it while I’m out there.”
ROTHSCHILD: “The only way the velocity (is the biggest problem) is if it’s changing his arm angle because he’s trying to muster or anything else. I don’t really see that. I think he’s trying to make pitches with what he’s got on a given day and staying within deliveries and trying to execute pitches. Early in the season he had the same velocity and pitched really well. I think it’s just executing pitches a little bit better. … He’s made a number of good pitches, but like I said, it’s the inconsistent pitches that are catching up with him. Maybe a few times behind in the count a little too much.”
GIRARDI: “(Velocity) is probably part of it. The bottom line is, you’ve got to locate. You’ve got to change speeds, and he’s able to do that. When you throw a sinker that cuts to the middle of the plate, a lot of times it’s going to be trouble.”
After the game, when the clubhouse opened to reporters, Sabathia and Rothschild were sitting together in front of Sabathia’s locker. Their conversation was calm and quiet, and although neither would discuss the details, the basic topic was pretty easy to guess. The Yankees need their ace to pitch winning baseball again.
SABATHIA: “It’s everything; not being able to make pitches with two strikes, fastball command. It’s just not being good. I just need to work and make sure that I can get better and try to help the team. … I’ve just got to make better pitches, do a better job of getting outs, pitching to contact and not getting behind in hitter’s counts.”
ROTHSCHILD: “(I tell him), ‘Look at what you’ve done and what you are when you take the mound. That’s what you have to know.’ Not only does he know it, but everybody he faces knows it. That’s all part of the game. That’s part of the game within a game. The track record is there and it’s not there just because of the stuff he’s had, it’s because of the way he competes. There’s a lot of guys with great stuff that don’t win the games that he’s won. I think you’ll see him get back to it.
GIRARDI: “We’ve seen him early in the year struggle in certain months, whether it’s April or May. We’ve seen that. It’s kind of been a little bit of his DNA. Hopefully this month is behind him and he can take off in the next month. … I just think he’s too smart and he’s too talented not to figure it out.”
• Mild scare in the second inning when Robinson Cano came down hard after a play at second base. Because of a high throw from David Adams, Cano got his left foot clipped as Yunel Escobar slid into second. Cano said he was fine. In fact… “It’s my fault,” he said. Basically, Escobar made a good slide, but Cano got himself in the way because of the throw.
• Actually, most everything about that second inning was kind of a mess. “We just gave them extra outs,” Girardi said. “What was the count on Rodriguez, 0-2? He hit him. Then we have the hard-hit ball to David. It’s a tough play, but it’s a play he’s able to make. Then CC doesn’t get over.”
• Girardi pretty quickly dismissed Sabathia failing to cover first on that play. Girardi said that, when Sabathia comes off the mound in his delivery, it’s sometimes hard for him to get going toward first base. It’s an accepted tradeoff. “It’s part of what it is,” Girardi said.
• After a couple of cheap runs in the second inning, Sabathia gave up five more on balls that were legitimately hit hard. Both home runs were fastball mistakes. “I think a few fastballs were not located,” Rothschild said. “They cut on him. The pitch to Rodriguez instead of staying down and away and missing the bat, the ball cut right to where he was swinging and ends up going out of the park. There were a couple pitches like that.”
• If you’re curious, Girardi said Sabathia has not complained about any sort of injury, and Sabathia said he has no injury to complain about. “I feel great,” he said. “I have no complaints. I’ve just got to be better.”
• Speaking of being better: The Yankees had three hits in their first eight innings, then they had three more in the ninth. Brett Gardner homered — his fifth of the season — and David Adams had a two-run double — his third of the year — to at least get the Yankees on the board.
• Pretty much goes without saying, but Alex Cobb was great tonight. Cano was raving about his changeup/splitfinger that had a ton of movement down in the zone. The Yankees never had much of a chance against him.
• David Huff made his Yankees debut. He struck out his first batter, but he ultimately walked two and allowed an RBI double. Not exactly a flawless first impression. Seems like a really nice guy, for whatever that’s worth.
• Looking for a bright side, it’s pretty obvious. The Yankees actually won two of three at Tropicana Field, winning a series in this ballpark for the first time since April 2010. “It’s been a while since we did that,” Girardi said. “We had a pretty long losing streak for a while. To be able to win two out of three, it’s good.”
• Give the final word to Cano: “We know what kind of player (Sabathia) is. He’s going to go now and figure out what’s wrong, what he’s not doing. Most of his pitches were over the plate, but I know he’ll figure out what’s wrong. That’s the last guy I worry about.”
Associated Press photos