We talk about narratives a lot. Sometimes, they’re valid, but mostly, they’re used a tool to get through a very long season. Tonight’s game was part of that narrative.
Baseball is a marathon. For eight months, a bunch of players play nine innings every day. They play 30 games in Spring Training, 162 times during the regular season, and then, for the lucky and good teams, another 15 games in October. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go the way the fans want.
Tonight was one of those nights. As CC Sabathia said during the post-game interviews, he just wasn’t comfortable tonight. From the first pitch on, he couldn’t find his change-up, and when the Yanks gave up four unearned runs in the first, it just compounded the problem. By the time his night was over, CC had thrown a Joba-ian 82 pitches in 2.2 innings and allowed nine runs — five of them earned — as the Rays knocked 8 hits off the big man. He struck out three but walked five. Better today than next week.
While it would have been nice for Sabathia to win his 20th game, that’s about all it would have been. For the last three months, he’s been the staff ace, and in five days, he’ll take up that mantle in a game that counts. Feeling good after the game, he declared himself set for the post-season. “I’ll be ready five days from now,” CC said. So will the Yankees.
Meanwhile, Sabathia wasn’t the only one struggling to say focused and in control during a meaningless game on a Friday in front of 22,704 fans in Tampa. Phil Hughes, throwing in the 8th to get some work, couldn’t put away hitters. He threw 12 of 17 pitches for strikes but gave up three hits and a row. Joe Girardi lifted him for Damaso Marte, and it appeared to me as though Phil was just throwing for the sake of throwing. It was 12-3, and that’s called pitching to the score. At least Brian Bruney and Phil Coke looked good.
For the Yankees, the highlights were few and far apart. The first highlight — or scare — was retaliation. In the first inning, Mark Teixeira was hit on the left hand by a David Price pitch. It was clear retaliation for the Yanks’ unintentional beaning of Carlos Peña a few weeks ago. That HBP broke Peña’s fingers. This one just nicked Teixeira’s. “It just kind of grazed me. So luckily it’s good,” the Yanks’ slugger said after the game. He will be okay.
In the top of the 8th, the Yanks caught of glimpse of some left-handed power. Juan Miranda took a Dale Thayer offering into the back of the right field seats for his first career home run. The Yankees should be able to find a taker for Miranda this off-season, and while power-hitting left-handed first basemen are a dime a dozen, he’ll probably return something useful.
In the end, this was an ugly one. The Rays won 13-4, and B.J. Upton had hit for the cycle by the 5th inning. In five days, it’ll count. This one didn’t, and it showed.