CC Sabathia’s pitching has been one of the Yankees’ best surprises in this strong start to the season. In fact, it’s been so good that what the lefthander turned in on Thursday night in the series finale against the Red Sox was a bit of a shock. Boston dented him pretty badly.
Sabathia ended up with a no-decision in what ultimately became a 5-4 Boston win at the Stadium. Still, the outing was the worst of the seven he’s made this season, as he allowed four runs and nine hits in four innings-plus. Sabathia, who threw 80 pitches, didn’t issue a walk and struck out five.
“It wasn’t as dominant as he’s been, but that’s going to happen,” manager Aaron Boone said.
Sabathia didn’t retire the side in order in any inning, and when Boston designated hitter Hanley Ramirez hit a 2-and-2 cutter for a laser of a home run into the Boston bullpen in left-center to lead off the fifth, the Yankees trailed 4-0. It was the first home run allowed by Sabathia since April 6.
The Yankees scored four runs in the seventh to get him off the hook.
“I was a little too aggressive with two strikes. I threw some pitches in the zone that probably were too good to hit with two strikes,” said Sabathia, whose ERA rose from 1.39 to 2.23. “As the game went on, my fastball felt pretty good, but I was trying to challenge a little more than I probably should have to some good hitters.”
Boston’s Mookie Betts was 3-for-3 against Sabathia, and two of the hits came on two-strike counts.
Moments after the Ramirez homer, umpires halted play as a downpour began. When play resumed 55 minutes later, Sabathia was out of the game and Jonathan Holder was in.
“The rain delay made his night a little bit shorter,” Boone said. “I think he would have gotten through that inning and maybe gone out for more, still with a chance.”
Sabathia said he rode the exercise bike to stay warmed up, hoping that he could return to the mound after play was stopped. But once about 40 minutes had elapsed, it became clear to him that his evening was done.
“I always want to go back [out],” he said.
Sabathia had allowed two or fewer runs in five of his previous six starts and hadn’t allowed four in a game all season. He came into the game on a roll. In his previous four starts — since returning April 19 from a stint on the disabled list with a right hip strain — he had allowed one earned run in 23 1⁄3 innings for a 0.39 ERA.
“Hopefully next time I can go out and execute a little better,” he said.
“They hit some balls hard against him, but I didn’t think he was too far off what he’s been,” Boone said. “You tip your cap to the other side too sometimes.”