Yankess pitcher CC Sabathia has a pained look after giving...

Yankess pitcher CC Sabathia has a pained look after giving up a two-run home run to the Mets' Jason Bay in the second inning at Citi Field, Sunday. (May 23, 2010) Credit: David Pokress

With an eye on taking this Subway Series from the Mets, the Yankees sent CC Sabathia to the mound last night expecting him to pitch like the ace he is. That didn't happen.

Watching Jason Bay's two home runs leave Citi Field had to have been frustrating for the lefthander, but there already was a sense that this wasn't going to be his night.

Alex Cora, of all people, was responsible for that.

Of the six runs Sabathia gave up in five innings against the Mets, the first two scored when the light-hitting utility infielder hit a two-out, two-strike pitch into centerfield for a single.

As the Yankees' $161-million ace, Sabathia obviously is not supposed to let Cora beat him, especially not with two outs and two men in scoring position. But that's what happened, setting the tone for a disappointing start.

"I think it was just bad pitch selection," Sabathia said. "I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand pretty good. I had good action on my pitches but just made some wrong decisions in some tough spots."

By the time Cora stepped to the plate in the second inning, Sabathia already had escaped trouble. The Mets loaded the bases with one out but Sabathia got out of it by striking out David Wright and getting Angel Pagan to fly out to centerfield.

It looked as if Sabathia was going to follow suit against Cora in the second, jumping ahead of him with two called strikes, then throwing a 94-mph fastball that looked as if it could have been called a strike. But it wasn't, and that's where Sabathia's game started downhill. "I thought I hit the corner," Sabathia said. "Obviously he didn't call it. That's just part of the game.''

Two pitches later, Cora drove in two runs with a hard-hit single and Bay launched a 2-and-1 changeup into the left-centerfield seats. Sabathia regretted throwing a changeup in that spot, saying he wishes he had gone after Bay with "something hard."

After Bay's home run, Sabathia retired seven of the next eight Mets, making it seem as if he were going to be able to give the Yankees' high-powered offense a chance to come back. But Bay homered to lead off the fifth.

Once Bay made contact with Sabathia's 1-and-0 pitch, he seemed to sense trouble. Sabathia immediately stepped off the mound and looked down, almost as if he didn't want to follow the ball as it traveled over the wall into the bullpen area.

Sabathia has allowed 10 home runs in 65 1/3 innings this season. Last year he gave up 18 home runs in 230 innings. The most he has allowed in a season is 20, in 2004 and 2007.

"It is what it is," Sabathia said of the home runs. "I'm just making bad pitches, not putting balls where they need to be."

Joe Girardi said "it's hard to put your finger on" the reason why Sabathia has struggled, then suggested that location has been his biggest problem.

Sabathia didn't disagree, but he focused more on his pitch selection rather than location.

"I made some wrong decisions in big spots,'' he said, "and it ended up costing me today.''