CC hurt by weak ‘D’

CC Sabathia hoped to an impact on this pennant race. It was felt when he limped off the field Aug. 23 that his 2015 season might be over. Wearing a brace on his arthritic right knee Wednesday night, Sabathia returned with a serviceable if unspectacular and ultimately disappointing performance.

The disappointment part had more to due with the leaky defense of second baseman Stephen Drew, whose two misplays during Sabathia’s 4 2/3 innings resulted in three runs, only one of which was earned but was nevertheless tainted.

“That was really the difference in the game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of those runs.

The Yankees lost, 5-3, to a Baltimore club that won two of three games at Yankee Stadium, a tough prelude to their upcoming four-game showdown against the Blue Jays that starts Thursday night.

Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons, got a pass from Yankees fans because his fielding has mostly been a positive trait. Wednesday night, however, he turned out to be a thorn in Sabathia’s side.

In the first inning with a runner on first base and none out, Drew bobbled a bouncer by Gerardo Parra that might have been a double play. Drew was able to recover and get an out at first base, but Nolan Reimold was able to take second. One out later, he scored on Chris Davis’ flare single to right field.

Sabathia settled into a nice rhythm over the next two innings while Carlos Beltran thrust him into a 3-1 lead with a solo home run (No. 15) in the first inning and a two-out, two-run single in the third.

The Orioles threatened in the fourth on a leadoff walk to Davis and a single by Jonathan Schoop. Sabathia recovered nicely by striking out Caleb Joseph, retiring Steve Pearce on a fly ball to the warning track in left field and J.J. Hardy on a grounder to third.

The same scenario presented itself in the fifth as Dariel Alvarez walked and Reimold singled to start the inning. Parra bunted the runners into scoring position, and Sabathia got a big strikeout of Manny Machado on a pitch off the plate.

Girardi estimated before the game that he could get 85 pitches from Sabathia, which is precisely the number he got, except that CC’s 85th pitch, a 1-2 fastball, hit Davis and ended the lefthander’s outing before he could qualify for his first victory in eight starts since July 8.

Adam Warren took over with the bases loaded and appeared to have gotten out of the jam by getting Schoop on a grounder to third, but Drew mishandled third baseman Chase Headley’s peg for what would have been an inning-ending forceout for an error that allowed in two runs which tied the score.

Pearce, who was robbed of an extra-base hit in the second inning on a wall-climbing catch by left fielder Dustin Ackley, finally got something out of a long drive when he homered with one out in the eighth. The Orioles added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI double by Davis, who had a big series (4-for-8, two runs, one double, one home run, four RBI, four walks).

For the second straight game, the Yankees were shut down by the Orioles’ bullpen, who held them hitless for six innings. As strange as it may seem, the work of Sabathia may have been the most encouraging aspect of this game.

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