It took CC Sabathia 19 seasons to get close to this milestone, and he’ll need at least another five days to reach it.
Just reinstated from the injured list, the lefthander missed out on a shot at his 250th win Sunday night. He gave up home runs by J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts but otherwise gritted out a pretty good performance and left after six innings looking at a one-run deficit. The Yankees never caught up and he took the loss as they fell to the Red Sox, 8-5, at the Stadium.
After falling behind 8-2, the Yankees scored three runs in the eighth on a bases-loaded balk, Aaron Hicks’ RBI groundout and Gleyber Torres’ sacrifice fly. But Luis Cessa was charged with five runs in one inning-plus, erasing a solid outing by Sabathia.
Sabathia, whose balky right knee hurts almost all of the time, he said, missed nine games when the old injury got too painful to bear.
He thinks he’ll eventually need a knee replacement, but until then, this final career season will be an exercise in resilience and pain management.
He pitched six innings, partially saving a taxed bullpen, and allowed three earned runs, seven hits and no walks, striking out eight.
“It’s always something we’re monitoring,” Aaron Boone said of Sabathia’s injury. “It’s something that we monitor closely, certainly as he starts to string together more starts in a row.”
Necessity has made Sabathia a key cog in the Yankees’ rotation, thanks to injuries. Luis Severino is not expected to return until the second half of the season and James Paxton returned from a knee injury a week ago.
That means more emphasis on Domingo German and, yes, Sabathia, who came into Sunday 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA.
He already had reached another milestone this season, becoming only the third lefthander to record 3,000 strikeouts. Before Sunday, he was 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his last six starts against the Red Sox.
That was the good news.
The bad news was that he also had allowed home runs in his six last starts, and multiple homers in four of those games.
That bugaboo struck early against the Red Sox.
Martinez got it started, blasting a cutter into the leftfield stands to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead just three batters in.
The Red Sox scored another run in the second.
Luke Voit (who hit his 15th homer in the fourth) made a nice diving stop on a ball hit by Christian Vasquez but lost it in the transfer for an infield hit. Vasquez reached third on Michael Chavis’ single and scored on a single by Nuñez.
Bogaerts homered to lead off the fourth, hitting a 78-mph slider.
It was unclear whether Sabathia was feeling any extra ill effects from that right knee (which, he’s said, hurts even when he’s casually walking), but it’s certainly on Boone’s mind.
After nearly two decades in the big leagues, Sabathia has become good at communicating with his manager, who also was a former teammate with the Indians, and that does allow the Yankees to have some comfort in an admittedly precarious position.
Still, there’s no guarantee that Sabathia won’t need future stints on the injured list to finish his goodbye tour. Which means that general manager Brian Cashman might have to acquire starting pitching help very soon.
“He’s tough and can pitch through a lot, but it’s something that we try and stay on as far as making sure he’s keeping his strength up, keeping the balance between the two legs,” Boone said.
“It’s something that he’s been able to pitch through, but we know it’s something that we may need a timeout at some point.”