CC in comfort zone at Stadium
Think of the old Yankee Stadium and clips of Lefty Gomez or Whitey Ford come to mind. The renovated Stadium provided a showcase for Ron Guidry and Andy Pettitte. And there is little doubt that the left-handed pitcher most associated with the new Stadium is CC Sabathia.
Talk about a comfort zone. Sabathia’s tenure with the Yankees coincided with the opening of the new place in 2009 and has it ever been home to him these past two seasons.
His work Thursday in a 5-0 victory over the Athletics was nothing short of masterful. Oakland puts out a lineup that seems the equivalent of a Triple A team, and that is just the way CC handled the A’s. They managed one hit off him in eight innings, but an even greater measure of his dominance was that Sabathia didn’t allow the A’s to hit a ball out of the infield for 5 1/3 innings covering a stretch of 19 plate appearances.
Landon Powell flied out to left field to end the second inning. The next ball to reach the outfield by an A’s hitter was Coco Crisp’s fly to right for the second out in the eighth. In between, there were eight groundouts (one of which was a double play), three infield pops (two of them foul), four strikeouts, two walks, one hit batter and a player reaching on a throwing error by catcher Jorge Posada after fielding a dribbler in front of the plate.
“That’s as good as it gets,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia seems to be as good as it gets whenever he pitches at Yankee Stadium. He has not lost in his past 21 starts in the Bronx, matching a streak Ford had during the 1964 and ’65 seasons in the original building. The Yankees are 19-2 in those Sabathia starts. His personal record in those starts is 16-0 with a 2.05 ERA.
CC is 11-0 with a 2.27 ERA at the Stadium this year, the first Yankees pitcher in 12 years to win his first 11 home decisions of a season. David Wells and David Cone both did it in 1998. Over his two seasons with the Yankees at the Stadium, Sabathia is 18-2 with a 2.63 ERA. And that does not count his three postseason starts of 2009 when he was 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA. Sabathia’s only loss was in Game 1 of the World Series when he pitched well against the Phillies except for Chase Utley, who homered off him twice.
“Maybe it’s because I like my wife’s cooking,” CC says with a smile. “I enjoy being home and relaxing with my family.”
CC was able to get back home early Thursday because of his efficiency. Mark Ellis’ leadoff single to left in the second was the lone hit Sabathia surrendered. Two home runs by Curtis Granderson, a late fill-in for ailing Nick Swisher (sore left knee) and one by Posada gave CC all the run support he needed.
The only thing close to a rough patch was in the eighth when he hit the first batter and walked the next. Sabathia had plenty left in his tank as he struck out pinch hitter Daric Barton, got Crisp on that fly ball and Rajai Davis on another infield out.
Sabathia wanted to come out for the ninth, but Girardi decided to have the big guy call it a day.
“It was really hot,” Girardi said, “and we need to give him a break once in a while. He’s a big, strong man. He’s a football player playing baseball.”
“I can see myself playing the offensive line,” said Sabathia, who is 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds.
“He had no-hit stuff,” Posada said. “He had a great slider and changeup, especially the slider. His slider in, his slider away, he just kept throwing strikes.”
At 19-5 with a 3.02 ERA, Sabathia is a strong candidate for his second American League Cy Young Award. He has always said his Cy Young year of 2007 with the Indians was his most consistent, but 2010 is pretty close. What CC is also doing is working his way into the AL Most Valuable Player Award conversation.
No knock on Robinson Cano, but it could be argued that Sabathia has been equally as valuable to the Yankees, who have had issues with other pitchers in the rotation.
“He has been the one constant,” Girardi said. “That’s what aces do.”