CC still deep in the woods

Splitting the two-game series with the Dodgers was a plus for the Yankees. Naturally, a sweep was preferable but considering how hot Los Angeles had been making up 10 ½ games in the standings in a little over a month winning one of the two games was a positive first step for the Yankees on this trip because the next two stops appeared to be soft spots on the schedule.

After the three-game weekend series at San Diego against the Padres, who are next to last in the National League West, the Yankees will move on to Chicago to play the last-place White Sox of the American League Central. The start of the supposedly soft stretch turned out a rough patch as the Yankees lost to the Padres, 7-2.

Friday night was a golden opportunity for CC Sabathia to straighten himself out. If the Yankees are going to make a serious run at the AL East title or at least a wild-card playoff berth they need their ace to pitch like one. Unfortunately, Sabathia’s struggles continued as he remained winless in five starts since July 3.

The lefthander did end a stretch of three straight starts in which he allowed at least seven runs, but it was close. The Padres scored five runs off Sabathia, who left the game with two down in the sixth and two runners on base, so had they scored it would have been yet another 7-spot against him. Preston Claiborne walked the first batter he faced intentionally to load the bases and struck out Jesus Guzman to end the threat.

It was another messy outing for Sabathia, who gave up two runs in a 28-pitch first inning and continued to slide downhill after that. The Padres stroked 11 hits off CC, equaling the highest total he has allowed this year (May 20 at Baltimore). Over his past five starts in which he is 0-4 with a 7.85 ERA, Sabathia has allowed 44 hits, including six home runs, in 28 2/3 innings. For the season, opponents are batting .277 against Sabathia, who in 152 2/3 innings has given up 168 hits, including a career-high 24 home runs. CC, who has never had a losing record over a full season, is 9-10.

The best thing Sabathia did in the game was drive in one of the two runs in the second inning that tied the score. He allowed the Padres to regain the lead in the fourth when taken deep by Logan Forsythe. Even worse, CC failed to cover first base on a grounder to the right side by opposing pitcher Andrew Cashner, who was credited with a single and soon after scored on a triple by Everth Cabrera, one of four hits in the game for the San Diego shortstop.

It might have been worse for Sabathia if not for an excellent play by his catcher, Chris Stewart, who after grabbing Brett Gardner’s one-hop throw from center field took a blow to the head in tagging out Chase Headley at the plate in the third inning. That was the only real highlight in the game for the Yankees.

In their first appearance at Petco Park, the Yankees did not give a sellout crowd of 44,124 much to appreciate. They failed to take advantage of Red Sox and Rays losses and fell four games out of the wild-card chase. Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup but looked rusty without getting a ball out of the infield and striking out twice in a 0-for-4 game.

Eduardo Nunez, who became the eighth different player to start at third base for the Yankees this year, doubled in a run, made a good tag to catch Cabrera trying to steal third, handled three grounders without incident but needed two throws saved by Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay. Nunez also did a terrific piece of base running in the second by scoring from third base easily on the contact play for Sabathia’s RBI.

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