Let’s acknowledge this much: Wins and losses are a pretty bad way to evaluate a pitcher. But let’s also acknowledge this: One of CC Sabathia’s greatest strengths for four years was his ability to win. His very best days might not have been as overwhelming as Justin Verlander’s or Felix Hernandez’s, but Sabathia’s absolute worst days were still winable games. It’s a big part of what made him an ace, a workhorse and a Cy Young candidate.
“I’ve always been a guy that’s said bend, don’t break,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been breaking a lot this year.”
Sabathia’s been perfectly beatable this year, hence the .500 record and . He seems to have reigned in that home run problem he had a few months ago, but he still has games like today when scoring opportunities consistently lead to runs. The Red Sox scored at least one run in four straight innings. Sabathia used to stop that sort of thing. He’d make a pitch when he needed to, get a double play when he had to, and keep things close enough to give the Yankees a chance.
In the past four years, Sabathia averaged — essentially — an 18-7 record. That’s five more wins and six fewer losses than he has this year. Turn six Yankees losses into wins — or five losses into wins — and they’re leading the for the first wild card spot.
“I don’t ever think like that,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s always more than one guy. I think by the question you’re asking, you’re putting it on one guy, in a sense, and I don’t think that’s fair to do. It’s 25 — well, 55 for us — that need to contribute.”
That’s perfectly fair and true. Injuries have been relentless, the offense has come and gone, and the bulk of the pitching staff has struggled down the stretch. But even Sabathia said he has thought about the difference he could have made with just one or two improved outings.
“A hundred percent,” Sabathia said. “Especially tonight. It’s tough. … It hasn’t been coming along as quick as I wanted to. Very frustrating, because everybody keeps telling me I’m close. But I don’t see it. I want results, and I know the team wants results. I know the fans want results. It’s just tough not being able to deliver.”
• Girardi would not necessarily concede that the Red Sox are better than the Yankees this season, but he did concede that they’ve played better recently. “Yeah, well, they have,” Girardi said. “They have. They scored a ton of runs on us at our place. Today was the second-fewest runs we gave them in seven games. They’re swinging the bats extremely well. They went to Tampa and played well. I mean, they’re playing really well. But we’re coming off a series In Baltimore where we played extremely well, too.”
• The only Yankees hitter to have a good day was Curtis Granderson, who had a terrific day with two extra-base hits and the Yankees only run. Hard to do much with that regardless of the pitching.
• Trying to get to the root of Sabathia’s problem today, Girardi turned to the usual: “I think it comes down to he’s had some issues where the ball has cut on him,” Girardi said. “That’s usually what it is. He juts doesn’t locate it. I think his stuff is plenty good enough to control lineups.”
• Sabathia said cutting really wasn’t the issue today. “I didn’t throw many balls that cut today,” he said. “I was just up, out, on the side, maybe flying open a little bit; something me and Larry can look at one video. I just need to be better. … I feel like earlier in the year I didn’t have the stuff to compete, so maybe that’s why I was getting hit around. I feel like right now I have the stuff, it’s just me putting together a good game.”
• After so many of these Sabathia starts, the same question has been raised — the health one — but Sabathia was a little more defiant in answering it today. “I feel great physically,” he said. “I want the ball. I wish I could pitch tomorrow and try to help this team, but I have to wait my turn. I’ll go out and try to be better next time out.”
• This was J.R. Murphy’s first Major League start. “My nerves calmed down after the first inning and I was fine,” he said. “… The last thing you want to do is over-think it. There’s a lot of information that I have to retain before the game in order to attack their lineup. That’s my job. I feel like we did an OK job today. Still room for improvement.”
• Murphy said he felt like he and Sabathia were on the same page. “I felt a lot more comfortable out there early on than I thought because we caught him a lot in bullpens,” Murphy said. “I’ve also seen him in spring training. I talked to Larry, talked to Joe, talked to Romine, talked to Stewart. All those guys have been really helpful to make sure I was on the same page today.”
• Murphy didn’t know he was starting until he got to the park this morning. That surprised me a little bit, but maybe Girardi didn’t want to make the kid nervous all night.
• It was pretty late that the Alfonso Soriano scratch was announced, and that’s because it was pretty late when Girardi found out. “We just scrambled because it was a little later today,” Girardi said. “I think it was about 12:20 that he informed us, so I had to figure out what we were going to do. I knew who we were going to put in, but had to figure out what order you were going to put guys in today.”
• Three hits was the Yankees lowest total since getting just hits on July 27 against the Rays. This was the seventh time this season the Yankees were held to three hits or fewer.
• In five starts against the Red Sox this season Sabathia has a 7.22 ERA.
• Robinson Cano tied Dave Winfield for 16th place on the Yankees all-time RBI list. Cano’s RBI groundout in the fourth inning was his 818th career RBI.
• Final word might as well go to Sabathia: “It’s tough when you don’t have your stuff against these guys, but you just try to go out and battle and do what I could. It wasn’t good enough. It hasn’t been good enough all year. I’ve got a few more starts left. Hopefully I can be a lot better.”
Associated Press photos