In evaluating CC Sabathia's previous two starts this season, Joe Girardi said "it's been a couple innings'' that kept the lefthander from truly standout performances.
"He needs to stay away from those couple innings,'' Girardi said Friday.
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No such luck.
After cruising for five innings Friday night against the Red Sox, Sabathia allowed two homers in a four-run sixth inning in the Yankees' 4-2 loss in front of 44,121 at the Stadium.
"My stuff is there," he said. "I'm confident, I feel strong, I feel good. Just a matter of me going out and putting a game together."
What had Sabathia (1-2, 6.63) especially angry at himself afterward wasn't so much the hanging slider that Grady Sizemore hit over the rightfield fence for a three-run homer that made it 4-1. It was the sequence preceding it and his own reaction to it.
Sabathia took a 1-0 lead into the inning, courtesy of Alfonso Soriano's home run in the second, but Jonny Gomes led off the sixth by sending an 89-mph fastball over the leftfield wall for his first home run of the season.
With one out, David Ortiz reached on a checked-swing single to the left side of the infield against the shift and Mike Napoli singled hard up the middle on a 3-and-0 pitch. Sabathia said he still was focused on Ortiz's excuse-me hit during the Napoli at-bat.
"I give up an accidental hit to Big Papi and I'm frustrated about that; next thing I know, I'm 3-0 on Napoli and I haven't taken the time to calm down," Sabathia said. "That's something as I've gotten older I've been able to control is my emotions. I let them get the best of me tonight . . . I was [ticked] off and made a bad pitch."
After Napoli's hit, Sizemore, a former teammate of Sabathia's with the Indians, hammered an 0-and-1 slider for his second homer of the season -- and second of his career against Sabathia -- for the 4-1 lead.
"I didn't notice," catcher Francisco Cervelli said of Sabathia dwelling on Ortiz's hit. "But I think it's my job to keep him in the game."
Sabathia had been terrific through five innings, needing only 68 pitches and allowing one hit.
Sabathia allowed those four runs, six hits and two walks in seven innings. He struck out nine, which gave him 1,015 strikeouts as a Yankee, pushing him past Roger Clemens into sole possession of 11th place on the franchise list.
"I look at it as one pitch, the slider that he left up to Sizemore," Girardi said. "That was the real difference in the game. Besides that, I thought he had really good command and threw the ball well."
While Sabathia couldn't avoid the big inning, his offense failed to produce one against Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. Lester (1-2, 2.57) allowed two runs and six hits in 62/3 innings.
With Boston ahead 4-1, Kelly Johnson -- 0-for-14 against Lester to that point -- singled home a run with two outs in the seventh to make it 4-2 and put runners on first and third. Righty Junichi Tazawa came in to face Derek Jeter, who flied to short right for the third out.
"In general, I think he was great," Cervelli said of Sabathia. "We have to hit, too. We have to score more runs."