All potential playoff teams need an ace to truly have a shot of the ultimate goal; winning a World Series title. New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia is the closest thing they have to an ace but, unfortunately he is not pitching like one when they need him the most. Sabathia lost his third start in his last four outings as the Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4.
Cue up the injury speculation, the worn down thoughts and maybe suggest Sabathia is just not as good anymore. None of the three options are particularly warming when Sabathia is set to earn another $94 million from 2013 to 2016. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, he has a $25 million vesting option for 2017 built around his health and it is looking safe as of now.
Last night as the Yankees returned to the Bronx following a tough nine-game road trip, Sabathia met up with Tampa Bay Rays undeniable ace David Price and it was easy to see which pitcher is on top of his game and which one may be beginning that inevitable slide down the proverbial hill. Sabathia kept up with the Price for the first four innings, even receiving the lead momentarily off a RBI-single by Steve Pearce. But, the fifth inning brought out Sabathia’s recent issues.
His velocity was back in the 93-94 mph range, but his command was off especially in the fifth. He allowed the first five batters to reach base including a double, two singles and two walks. For good measure he tossed in a wild pitch (though Russell Martin might have been able to make a better block). He received a ground ball double play which brought in the final run and the Yankees found themselves down 3-1.
Curtis Granderson hit his 38th home run in the bottom of the inning to keep the Yankees close and Sabathia tossed a 1-2-3 sixth. But he gave up a RBI-single to Ben Zobrist in the seventh and something Yankees fans are not used to seeing — well maybe we are getting used to it– Sabathia was yanked with a crucial hitter at the plate in Evan Longoria. Cody Eppley was able to get Longoria to flyout to end the inning. Sabathia ended the game with 6 2/3 innings pitched, 110 pitches, four runs on six hits and two walks with only two strikeouts.
The Rays tacked on a run in the eighth on the 23rd homer of the season by B.J. Upton, but the Yankees got to within one run of the lead in the bottom half of the frame. Alex Rodriguez launched a mammoth two-run home run to left field off Joel Peralta. After Robinson Cano walked, Rays manager Joe Maddon went to Fernando Rodney to get a five-out save. Rodney made it interesting as he threw a wild pitch to put Cano in scoring position. But that is right where the Rays wanted the Yankees who failed to bring Cano home. The Yankees ended the game 1-for-6 with RISP and are now 2 for their last 40 in such situations.
The inability to score when given the opportunity is haunting the Yankees once again, and if wins are going to come about, the Yankees’ offense will have start producing in those situations no matter how well their pitchers may or may not be throwing.
The Rays got an insurance run the ninth and Rodney sent the Yankees down in order in the bottom half of the frame for his 43rd save of the season lowering his ERA to a minuscule 0.66.
Fortunately for the Yankees (81-63), the Baltimore Orioles also lost, so the AL East is still a dead heat with eighteen games to play. In a late afternoon affair, the Yankees hope Ivan Nova‘s return to the mound will turn their fortunes. Nova (11-7, 4.92 ERA) is making his first start since August 21 after spending time on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. The Rays counter with James Shields (14-8, 3.71 ERA).