Nothing in CC Sabathia's previous six innings indicated something like the top of the seventh was coming.
Sabathia took the mound Sunday cruising along with a shutout, buoyed by yet another home run from Raul Ibañez that provided him with a two-run lead.
Some 36 pitches later, far too many of them balls, Sabathia walked off the mound having surrendered the lead in a three-run frame that led to a 5-2 loss to the Reds in front of 45,622 on a warm and windy afternoon at the Stadium.
"It's 2-0 in the seventh inning, that should be good enough to win a ballgame," said Sabathia, who fell to 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA. "Especially because I felt like I was pitching pretty good up until that point. So that should have been enough."
It wasn't as if the Reds (21-19), who took two out of three in the series, rallied.
Sabathia, who allowed three runs, six hits and a season-high five walks, entered the seventh inning having thrown 85 pitches and in total control before inexplicably losing it. In the inning, he allowed two home runs and walked three straight hitters, the last of which forced in the go-ahead run.
"Three walks in a row is unacceptable," Sabathia said.
Catcher Chris Stewart said: "He wasn't missing by much, but they weren't swinging at them. It's bound to happen to any pitcher. Unfortunately, everything happened in that one inning."
Ryan Ludwick led off the inning with a home run to cut the Yankees' lead to 2-1 and, after Todd Frazier flew out, the Reds' No. 8 hitter Ryan Hanigan pulled a home run down the leftfield line, his first of the season and on an 0-and-2 pitch, to tie it at 2.
In some ways, Sabathia's nightmare inning had just begun.
Zack Cozart reached on an infield single and Sabathia struck out leadoff man Chris Heisey.
The lefthander's command then abandoned him as three consecutive walks -- to Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips -- followed. The one to Phillips brought in Cozart to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Sabathia said the anger he showed as he came off the mound after the inning wasn't directed at plate umpire Tony Randazzo. "Just personal frustration, not being able to make a pitch," he said.
Much has been made, and for good reason, of the Yankees' difficulties with runners in scoring position.
But Sunday, Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who came in 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA, simply didn't give them many opportunities in which to come through. The Yankees went 1-for-3 with RISP against Cueto and 1-for-4 on the day to put them in a 5-for-59 skid. Their only damage Sunday came in the sixth when Ibañez hit his ninth homer of the season, a shot into the second deck in right that made it 2-0. Of Ibañez's last 11 hits, six have been homers.
That would be it against Cueto, who allowed those two runs, eight hits and two walks, striking out five.
"I don't know, I wasn't up there," Girardi said tersely, asked if it was a situation in which the opposing pitcher should be credited or his team's approach could have been different.
Derek Jeter blamed the offense. "CC did what he needed to do," he said. "We just need to score more runs."
Sabathia said all offenses go through rough stretches."It's a long season, you're going to have some ups and downs," Sabathia said. "When it's down, it's time for the pitching to step up and make pitches and I didn't do that tonight."