In the end, Travis Hafner drove a ball to deep left-center field. If it had hung in the air for just a moment longer, if it had been hit just a touch harder, it might have been a two-out, game-tying home run. It was, instead, the final out of a two-run loss.
“I thought it at least had a chance to go off the wall and we were going to have a double,” Joe Girardi said. “But the heavy air can knock some balls down here. We’ve seen that before. It’s not really a home run hitter’s park, even though there were some given up tonight.”
There were some home runs given up tonight, and that opens a different subject entirely.
CC Sabathia has allowed 14 home runs this season, the most on the team — two more than Phil Hughes — and tied for the third-most in the American League. He’s never allowed more than 22 home runs in a season, and he’s only once allowed more than 20.
“I just think that he goes out and he throws strikes,” Chris Stewart said. “Sometimes if you miss with those strikes and guys are ultra-aggressive, they’re going to hit them out of the park. Normally when he’s on, his ball is moving and it’s to location, so it takes advantage of that aggressiveness. If it’s not, then he gets in trouble.”
There’s a lot about Sabathia that seems unusual this season. It started with his velocity, which is still a few notches lower than it’s been in the past. It’s easy to draw a connection between that diminished arm strength and an inability to get away with mistakes. And it’s easy to connect those mistakes to the home runs. And it’s easy to connect the home runs tot he fact that Sabathia’s had a hard time getting on a sustain roll this season, something we’ve seen him do several times since he came to the Yankees.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s definitely frustrating. After having two good ones and feeling really good, just not having it today is frustrating. … You’re always (hopeful) after a couple good starts. The last two, I was feeling pretty good. You just want to keep it rolling. I wasn’t able to do that tonight, but hopefully I can do it again in five days.”
Said Girardi: “I’m not ready to give up on him. I expect his next start to be a good one.”
• Lyle Overbay on the play in right field, when the ball dropped between him and Robinson Cano: “I didn’t think I could catch it, so I figured let Robbie try. If I had it all over again, I’d make sure of where he was playing. He was playing up the middle, so I should have known he wasn’t going to have a chance to get it, so maybe I could lay out or something. But I knew I couldn’t get it, so I was hoping maybe he would have a chance.”
• After explaining one play that led to a run, Overbay brought us back to the big picture: “I think we lost the game when we couldn’t score in the first inning. That kind of set us up and gave Colon some momentum.” Bases loaded with one out in the first, Kevin Youkilis and Overbay each hit a weak fly ball to end the threat.
• Brett Gardner stayed hot with two hits and has hit safely in 16 of 18 games. His leadoff single got the offense going in the eighth, sparking four runs in the final two innings. Mark Teixeira had three RBI in those innings. Chris Stewart finished with two hits and his hitting .357 this road trip. “I expect our guys to put up good at-bats and give us an opportunity,” Girardi said. “They did it, and they did it against a bullpen that’s pretty good.”
• Robinson Cano had been brutal lately, but he took two early walks then had two late hits, including a double in the ninth.
• Hafner on his game-ending fly ball: “The ball doesn’t travel here at night. I was hoping it would at least be off the wall.”
• Sabathia’s big mistake was a first-pitch curveball that Norris hit for a three-run homer. “That was my call,” Stewart said. “That’s my fault. We threw him a lot of fastballs his first at-bat and figured he was going to try to go up there and look for the same thing. Just trying to get ahead with the curveball and he hit it out of the park.”
• Sabathia on the Norris homer: “I was going to get to (the fastball), I was just trying — the at-bat before I threw him all fastballs, so I was just trying to throw him off a little bit. He put a good swing on that one.”
• Once again, is everyone sure Sabathia’s not pitching hurt? “Yeah,” Girardi said. “He wouldn’t be going out there if he wasn’t healthy.”
• By the way, Sabathia’s left hand was fine after the comebacker.
• Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is day-to-day with a tight left hamstring. That’s why he left tonight’s game in the third inning.
• Final word goes to Sabathia, one evaluation of his night: “I just thought the stuff wasn’t as sharp, wasn’t as good tonight. They did a good job of fouling off pitches and making me throw the ball over the plate. They put some good swings on some balls. … The changeup was up and flat, the two-seamer, I was yanking it down the middle. It was just a combination of everything not being sharp.”
Associated Press photos