In front of a light crowd in St. Petersburg tonight (just 10,619 people), CC Sabathia earned his first win of the season tonight, and rightly so due to what was easily his best outing of the season so far. And that’s in spite of the stats he put up — 105 pitches over 7 full innings, giving up 6 hits, 4 runs (3 earned and 2 home runs), and 2 walks. But the impressive stat is his 9 strikeouts of Rays batters — that is rather reminiscent of the old Sabathia we know and love.
Sabathia’s weakest points were the bookend innings once again. In the 1st, two back-to-back lead-off walks put runners on base early, and a fly out moved them up to scoring position. A double scored one runner, but the second runner was tagged out; and despite a challenge against the home plate collision, the call on the field was upheld — just 1 run scored. Then Sabathia tamped down and just went to work getting the Rays to swing at crazy pitches and just stunning some of them into inaction of hitting poorly for weak, easy outs.
But then in his final inning, the 7th, he got shaken up again with two lead-off back-to-back solo home runs. A strikeout later, a batter doubled ending up on 3rd on a fielding error and then scored on a sacrifice fly (hence the unearned run). Sabathia’s 9th strikeout of the game ended the inning and his night.
David Carpenter came on in the 8th in relief of Sabathia. Now, while Carpenter can throw very hard (his fast balls are in the upper-90s), he seems to have some trouble with location. He hit his lead-off batter on the hip, allowed him to advance to 2nd on a pick-off error, and then score on a 2-out RBI single. Carpenter finally found his momentum after the error, but the 28 pitch inning left a check mark in the “needs some improvement” box of tonight’s report card. Like real estate, pitching is all about location — you can throw the fastest ball in the world, but if it’s not a strike, you got nothing. Potential is there, and thus room for growth.
Branden Pinder’s 9-pitch 9th reminded the Yankees why he was a great recent call-up. In a game that wasn’t a save situation, resting the Dynamic Duo meant relying on the bullpen. And up until recently, the bullpen has been able to rise to the occasion when called upon. But then maybe this is the shake-up the bullpen needs — not just relying on the Betances-Miller 1-2 punch, but stepping it up and being the pitching depth we know they are.
Okay, so I just talked about the Rays 5 total runs, and on most nights, this would mean they won. Yeah, on most night, the Yankees wouldn’t hit 5 home runs. The Yankees just pounded into the Rays’ starter tonight, which is partially unfair because like the Yankees last year, the Rays’ rotation has just been injury-plagued with a lone exception (tomorrow night’s starter). Overall, the Yankees got the starter to throw 99 pitches in his 6 innings, give up 11 hits, 8 runs (4 home runs), and 1 walk, and only struck out 6 batters.
Let’s start at the beginning… in the 1st inning, Alex Rodriguez hit a big 2-out solo home run. With the game tied in the 4th, the Yankees leapt ahead (a very big leap) — Beltran singled, a strikeout, Teixeira singled, a pop out, and Chase Headley hit the runners in on a 3-run home run. In the 5th, after 2 quick strikeouts, Carlos Beltran hit a solo home run. Then in the 6th, with 2 outs, Drew doubled and Gregorius walked, and then it’s Brett Gardner to score them both on his 3-run home run.
The Rays’ starter out of the game, turned over to their first reliever in the 7th, with 1 out, Teixeira doubled and McCann singled to put runners on the corners so that Headley’s sacrifice fly scored Teixeira. With the second reliever on the mound for his second inning (the 9th), the Yankees add just a little extra cushion for Sabathia’s win — with 1 out and Rodriguez on base after being hit by a pitch, Mark Teixeira’s 2-run home run gave the Yankees their 11th and final run of the game.
Final score: 11-5 Yankees.
I’m not usually a fan of big blow-out games, but tonight’s was rather fun. Maybe it was the odd way they collected those runs. Or the fact that they ended up really needing a big lead after the spiral that was the 7th and 8th innings. Or the fact that there was so many weird, great, amazing, or just funny moments of the game that I don’t have room for in this post. Or maybe it was because I couldn’t be at the game and was instead driving through construction zones and the occasional downpour listening to John and Suzyn set the scene for me for nearly 3 hours. By the way, it is the absolute best way to kill 3 hours of a road trip! (Thanks to John & Suzyn for keeping this tired driver very wide awake tonight during the last bit of my drive — literally hung my keys up as the final out was called.)
There are some other stories in Yankee Universe, but I have a feeling I’m going to need them for tomorrow’s post. The Yankees face the one Rays starter that consistently gives them trouble, who is also the only regular starter not dealing with some injury issue. Tomorrow’s game should be interesting, but if I know baseball (and even more the Yankees), games can be anything but predictable.
I kind of like it that — predictable is boring. Be brave, be bold, be unpredictable.