CC Sabathia has started 26 games so far this season, and has recorded a decision in 21 of them. His current four-game win streak has tied him with Josh Beckett, his opponent tonight, for the AL lead in wins. That seems impressive, especially given Sabathia’s slow start to the season. Yet he could be doing much better if not for those five no-decisions.
The first came early in the season, in that infamous home opening series against the Indians. Sabathia and Cliff Lee dueled, and the former clearly didn’t have his best stuff or command. He tossed 122 pitches through 5.2 innings, which seems like quite a lot, even for a workhorse like Sabathia. After Edwar Ramirez allowed a hit in relief, Phil Coke shut the door on the sixth, leaving Sabathia’s one-run effort in tact. The game was tied at one then, but Cleveland exploded in the top of the seventh, hammering Jose Veras for three runs without him recording an out. Damaso Marte was equally embarrassing, and that led to an Indians victory. Sabathia pitched well, but not deep enough and it cost the Yanks.
The next was the only Sabathia no-decision this year which the team won, the 14-inning affair against Oakland. The Yanks had a 6-5 lead when Sabathia went out for the seventh, but a walk and a single to lead off the inning allowed the A’s to manufacture two runs and tie the game. Strange that the CC no-decision in which the Yankees won is the one where Sabathia is eminently culpable.
Perhaps the most frustrating no-decision came against the Phillies. Sabathia gave up an early lead, but settled down and completed eight innings of three-run ball. The Yanks were down when he left, but by no means did he pitch poorly. In fact, this start was better than many of the starts in which Sabathia recorded a victory. Alas, win-loss record has plenty to do with the offense, and this time around the Yanks couldn’t muster more than two off Cole Hamels. They tied it off Brad Lidge in the ninth for the second consecutive day, but Brett Tomko would blow the game in extras. No-decision for Sabathia, though he pitched much better than that.
Next up is a tough outing at the Stadium against Tampa Bay. Five runs through eight innings isn’t all that great. Yes, you’re giving your team length, but the five runs just hurt. It came mostly in a three-run sixth, which put the Rays out ahead by two. After Sabathia finished the eighth, the Yanks rallied for two in the bottom half, handing the ball to Mariano Rivera in hopes they could walk off with another win in the ninth. Mo was sick that day, though, and gave up four runs in the ninth, sealing the game for the Rays. Not the best start, and Sabathia probably did deserve to lose it. Mo was obviously the bigger story that day.
The final one I’m not sure even counts. It was Sabathia’s 1.1 inning appearance against the Marlins, which he left with biceps tendinitis. He did allow a run in that span, and Aceves did come on to get the Yanks through the fourth inning, but again it was Tomko who blew the lead. Phil Coke didn’t help, and that was it for the Yanks, despite an effort off Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom. Again, it’s hard to hold CC completely responsible. He did, after all, only pitch about as much as a typical reliever.
That’s five no-decisions, two in which he pitched well, two in which he pitched poorly, and one throw-away. So while the Yanks are just 15-11 in games Sabathia has started, it clearly wasn’t always his fault. Sometimes the luck breaks that way. All considered, CC has pitched very well for the Yankees, especially over his last four starts. Here’s hoping he emerges tonight as the league leader in wins.