Joe Girardi underlined before the game how important it is for a team to have its ace going good. It makes life easier for everybody else in the rotation, he said, and it even makes losses a little bit more palatable.
"You lose a game and you have your ace going, you feel pretty good about it," he said. "If you lose a game and your ace is struggling, then it puts more stress on the other guys."
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Consider Saturday night's 8-6 loss to the Red Sox, then, particularly fruitless.
In one of his worst starts of the year, ace CC Sabathia pitched six innings, allowing six runs and eight hits, including Will Middlebrooks' two-out, two-run double in the first inning and Adrian Gonzalez's two-out, three-run rocket into the rightfield bleachers in the fifth that gave Boston a 6-1 lead.
"It [stinks],'' Sabathia said, adding that the rain delay of more than two hours before the game began had no effect on his performance. "It [stinks] not to be able to get out and pitch the way you want, especially against a team in your division."
Though he eventually was taken off the hook by Mark Teixeira's tying two-out, two-run homer in the eighth, the six earned runs were a season high for Sabathia.
Sabathia allowed three runs and four hits in the first inning, including back-to-back-to-back one-out hits by Pedro Ciriaco, Dustin Pedroia and Gonzalez and Middlebrooks' two-out drive -- all hard-hit balls.
He again struggled in the fifth, recording the first two outs before floundering against the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters -- a single by Ciriaco, who stole second, and a walk to Pedroia to set up Gonzalez's three-run homer on a first-pitch slider.
Sabathia ended the first inning by striking out Kelly Shoppach swinging and kicked off the second in a similar manner -- getting Mike Aviles and Daniel Nava on swinging third strikes. He held the Red Sox hitless in the second, third and fourth, retiring the side in order twice and allowing only a walk to Middlebrooks.
Sabathia threw 104 pitches, 69 for strikes, and Girardi said he lacked the pinpoint control necessary to build off those good stretches.
"It just looked like he made some mistakes with his fastball early over the plate and then he settled down," Girardi said. "In the fifth he got two outs and left a slider up in the zone and so, when he got in trouble, it was command issues."
Despite the poor returns, Girardi said Sabathia's track record speaks for itself. He added that he hardly is worried that this might become a recurring issue.
"He's had ," Girardi said. "He's pitched very well in the four years that he's been here, so as far as being concerned, I'm not too concerned about him."