Any warm and fuzzy feelings that Yankee fans were having after seeing Alfonso Soriano back in pinstripes for the first time in nearly 10 years didn’t last very long. The Yankees may have taken a small step toward improving their offense on Friday, but a floundering ace is suddenly the bigger concern.
“It’s tough, especially the way we’ve been battling,” CC Sabathia said after a 10-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “We’re right in the middle of this thing, and I feel like if I could help us out, I feel like we’d be doing a lot better. Getting no help from me is making it tough.”
For the most part, the Yankees pitching staff has been outstanding this season. From a Cy Young-caliber year out of Hiroki Kuroda to one of the best bullpens in the business, the Yankees are still sitting above .500 thanks largely to their collective performance on the mound. But the one glaring disappointment has been Sabathia, who has now allowed seven runs or more in three consecutive starts for the first time in his career. He is the only Major League pitcher to have a stretch like that this season.
“It’s pretty rare,” Joe Girardi said. “You don’t see it very often, as good as he’s been. It’s just really shocking what he’s going through. We’ll go back to the drawing board and see if we can figure it out before next Friday.”
• Girardi had no news on Derek Jeter, but an announcement was just made in the press box. Jeter will not be in uniform for Saturday’s game with the Rays. Instead, he’ll be playing in a simulated game at a time and location to be determined. Jon Heyman from CBS is reporting that if all goes well, Jeter could play with the Yanks on Sunday. I wonder how A-Rod feels about that…
• Getting back to CC, he really only had one bad inning, but it spiraled out of control quickly. He was close to getting out of the second with only one run across, but the Rays ended up scoring six in the inning to put the Yankees in a big hole. “That’s probably the most frustrating part about it,” Girardi said. “They had one run in and a guy on second with two outs, and he wasn’t able to complete the inning without giving up a few more runs… You can live with giving up one and you can live with giving up two, but when it’s a six-spot, that’s pretty difficult.”
• What did Girardi think CC’s biggest issue was tonight? “He was up tonight,” he said. “He left a fastball up, a couple sliders, a changeup up – that was the problem in the second inning. He was up in the zone, and they didn’t miss it.”
• CC acknowledged that some of his pitches were up, but he was most disappointed with himself for not being able to stop the bleeding when he had several opportunities to do so. “I feel like throughout my career, I’ve been able to kind of avoid and pitch out of big innings,” he said. “Here lately, I haven’t been able to make a pitch. It’s a number of things, but yeah, the balls were up a little bit.”
• Sabathia insisted that he feels “fine,” and Girardi reiterated that point. “He’s had no complaints physically about how he feels,” he said. “He’s gone out there every fifth day on his turn and hasn’t complained of any ailments.”
• CC went even further, saying that he feels like his stuff is the best that it’s been all season, which I’m sure adds to his mounting frustrating. “Keep working, keep pushing and just try to get better,” he said. “I feel like my stuff is a lot better than it was earlier in the year. I feel like it’s back and I’m a lot better. I’m just not making pitches.”
• The tough night for Sabathia overshadowed Soriano’s 0 for 5 return to the Bronx. He came up twice with the bases loaded, but failed to come up with the big hit. The situation in the third with two outs right after Tampa had taken a 6-0 lead could have swung momentum back in the Yankees’ favor, but Soriano popped out to right. The place was jumping when he came up. “It feels great,” Soriano said of the warm reception.”First day to come back and be in that situation, I wanted to come through. But it’s my first time facing some of these pitchers in the American League… I have to watch some video. I have to make adjustments quick and work very hard.”
• Soriano was asked how it felt to be welcomed back so openly by his teammates and fans. “Great,” he said. “It’s a good day for me to have a chance to put the uniform on again. This is a great organization.”
• He was also asked how the new Yankee Stadium compares to the old one, and if it feels the same. “It’s a little different because in the old one I played second base,” Soriano said.
• With the Yankees down 10-1 in the seventh, Girardi began pulling starters such as Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and Lyle Overbay. The Yankees offense rallied in the eighth and ninth without those guys to cut the deficit to 10-6, and Girardi was asked if he regretted taking his starters out. “Well, if you look at the group that I put in (David Adams, Melky Mesa and Chris Stewart), they were 5 for 6 – so no, not at all,” he said. “And the game is different. The bullpen is (used) differently if it gets closer. They probably go to (Fernando) Rodney and (Joel) Peralta, so no. It’s 10-1 and we had two chances. Lyle played eight innings and Cano played seven. We weren’t doing anything offensively, so no, I don’t kick myself one bit.”
• Girardi was also asked about the increasing importance of these next two games now that the Rays have moved passed the Red Sox for first place in the AL East. “They’re extremely important because they’re ahead of us,” he said. “Whether it’s first place or whatever you’re chasing, they’re ahead of us. We’re in a stretch where we’re playing teams that are ahead of us. We just came off of a road trip, and we need to catch these teams.”
• Final word goes to Sabathia, who was asked if he can ever recall a stretch like this is his career. His ERA now sits at 4.65, which would be the highest of his career if the season ended today. “No, but I mean, everybody faces adversity and tough times in this game. It’s up to me to go out and pitch better.”
Associated Press photos