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CC Sabathia ends disappointing first half with poor start in loss to Twins

CC Sabathia reacts in the fourth inning of

CC Sabathia reacts in the fourth inning of a game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. (July 14, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

After CC Sabathia's start June 28 in Baltimore, one in which he coughed up a three-run lead in the late innings, he was asked to evaluate his season to date.

"Not very good," he said.

And after Sunday's game?

"Terrible," Sabathia said.

A mediocre first half ended poorly for the Yankees' ace in a 10-4 loss to the Twins in front of 43,131 at the Stadium who weren't at all shy about expressing their displeasure with the slipshod Yankees.

Sabathia did have an alibi -- the Yankees' fielding was dreadful, making five of the eight runs off him unearned -- but no one would argue that he was good. He allowed eight hits and two walks in four innings and is 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. "I'm not pitching very well," he said. "I look forward to the break and pitching better in the second half."

One that is pockmarked with question marks, starting with an offense that has produced sporadically at best.

But first, a big-picture positive. Despite battling a slew of injuries from the time pitchers and catchers showed up in February and despite going 21-26 since their high-water mark of 30-18, the Yankees are in the thick of the AL wild-card chase.

"I think our guys have probably done as well as we could do," Joe Girardi said before the game.

Afterward, he said: "It's not where I want to be. I think these guys have done a pretty good job. But it's not where we want to be, so I don't think anyone should be satisfied with where we're at."

Being able to do something about it is another thing. The Yankees are in the market for a power bat, preferably an outfielder, plus infield and catching depth. But there are voices in the organization who think pitching should be on that list, too.

The Yankees' chances of staying in the playoff race likely will revolve around the performances of 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda, 41-year-old Andy Pettitte and Sabathia, nearly 33, whose left arm doesn't consistently pack the mid-90s punch with the fastball it used to. Cracks have shown up in all three.

"I need to be better in the second half," said Sabathia, who has career ERAs of 3.69 in the first half and 3.32 in the second.

Missing, to this point, has been the kind of prolonged run he has gone on in just about every season. "It's a little bit surprising," Girardi said. "We're used to seeing him get on a 10-, 11-, 12-game roll, and it just hasn't happened this year."

Said Chris Stewart, "You can't compare his past to now because he's not the mid-90s guy that he was; he can't just blow guys away. If he's not on with his fastball location and his off-speed pitches aren't down in the zone or on the corners, it's going to be tough for him."

Sabathia could have had a 1-2-3 third but Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells couldn't get together on a fly ball by Justin Morneau that fell for a one-out double, Eduardo Nuñez made a two-out throwing error on a routine grounder and Aaron Hicks made Sabathia pay with a three-run homer for a 5-0 lead. Lyle Overbay's two-out error allowed two unearned runs to score in a three-run fourth that made it 8-1. "I need to pick them up," Sabathia said of his fielders.

Ichiro Suzuki had three of the Yankees' 10 hits, including a homer, but they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine on base. The Twins turned four double plays, two started by outfielders.

"Those are ones you try and forget about, and we have a few days to forget about it," Wells said. "That was probably one of the uglier games seen in this stadium, for sure."

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