One bad inning sinks Sabathia

For five innings Friday night, CC Sabathia was pitching as the ace that Yankees fans have come to appreciate. With a fastball that was in the 90-miles-per-hour range and a devastating slider, the big lefthander held the Red Sox in check. He limited them to one hit and two walks, struck out six batters and got eight other outs in the infield.

It was not vintage Sabathia from his Cy Young Award days when the fastball was more muscular, but it was a cagier and slyer Sabathia who had Boston hitters guessing and oft times wrong. The lone hit to that point was a leadoff double by Red Sox catcher David Ross in the third inning. Sabathia retired the next three batters on ground balls to prevent Ross from scoring.

Then came the sixth inning, and everything went wrong for the big guy. Jonny Gomes led off with a home run off a 1-0 fastball that tied the score. Alfonso Soriano had given CC a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a home run off Jon Lester.

After striking out Dustin Pedroia, Sabathia gave up a single to David Ortiz on an excuse-me, half-swing of a dribbler to the vacated left side of the infield as the Yankees were employing an over-shift on Big Papi. Mike Napoli singled on a soft line drove to center field, but there was nothing soft about Grady Sizemore’s drive off a hanging slider on 0-1 that reached the second deck in right field for a demoralizing, three-run homer.

“I thought he had good command and threw the ball decent,” manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia. “He hung a slider, and Sizemore did not miss it. One pitch in a tight game sometimes it’s going to beat you.”

No one welcomed the offensive display more than Lester, who before that inning had watched his teammates score merely one run in his first 19 1/3 innings on the mound this year, which explains why he entered the game with a record of 0-2 despite a 2.51 ERA.

The Yankees tried to get Sabathia off the hook with a two-out rally in the seventh but got only one run on a Kelly Johnson single that chased Lester.

Sabathia’s ERA actually came down from 7.50 but is still an unseemly 6.63 after three starts as his record fell to 1-2. His nine strikeouts lifted his total with the Yankees to 1,017, which moved him past Roger Clemens into 10th place on the franchise’s career list. Next up in ninth place at 1,028 is Al Downing.

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