In early May, CC Sabathia had a win taken away from him when the umpires in Boston pulled the teams off the field with two strikes and two outs on Victor Martinez. Sabathia was just a strike away from an official game, and he would ensure today that early-season history would not repeat itself. Working quickly, Sabathia threw six shut-out innings before the rains held up the game for 57 minutes, and home runs by Austin Kearns and Robinson Cano gave the Yanks a 5-0 lead. When the rains let up, the Yanks tacked on five more, and the Mariners mounted nary a rally en route to a 10-0 Yanks’ victory.
CC goes six strong
As the Yanks and Mariners prepared for the rubber match of a three-game set, the stars seemed to align for exactly the kind of game that unfolded on Sunday afternoon. CC Sabathia had dominated the Mariners all season and had dominated everyone at home. He obliged by turning in a vintage CC performance, going six innings on three hits and no walks while striking out eight. He threw 76 pitches, and the only thing that prevented him from going deeper into the game was the weather.
For CC, the win was his 17th on the season and his 10th at home. He’s undefeated in the Bronx with a 2.77 ERA and 81 strike outs in 91.1 innings. CC just loves pitching in the Bronx, and he dominated both Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Branyan on Sunday afternoon, two hitters who had destroyed the Yankees’ pitchers all weekend.
On Sunday, CC worked fast. The Yanks and Mariners played the first 4.5 innings in around an hour and a half, and CC didn’t allow a hit until the top of the 5th. He was going to get that win before the rain came, and the rain itself allowed the Yanks to rest CC. With his six innings, he’s now at 187.2 innings on the season, and with the Yanks up 5-0 on a weak-hitting team, the game was in the bag. The Yanks’ win expectancy was at 97 percent when the tarp came out, and the weather saved CC from a pair of unnecessary innings. Let’s save those bullets for October.
A phantom tag
In the fifth inning, with the rains falling, the Yankees and CC ran into a spot of trouble. The Yanks had a 1-0 lead on an Austin Kearns home run, and CC and the Yanks could see an official game in their sights. The Mariners, however, had a rally in mind. Franklin Guttierez doubled down the left field line, and after a Casey Kotchman fly out, Adam Moore lined a single into right field. Nick Swisher came up throwing.
The laser from Swisher beat Guttierez to the plate, and Jorge Posada caught the ball, blocked the plate and seemingly tagged out the runner. Sam Holbrook called the Mariners’ runner out at the plate, and the Yanks had their lead in tact. It was the closest the Mariners would come to scoring, and replays showed that the score should have, in fact, been 1-1.
The problem with the Posada tag was that he didn’t actually make it. Jorge had the ball in one hand and tagged Guttierez with the empty glove. It wasn’t the brightest of plays by Jorge; he had enough time to put the ball in his glove and nail Guttierez properly. But Holbrook didn’t position himself in front of the play, and the Yanks’ catcher sold the out.
After an IBB, Robbie goes yard
For some reason, opposing managers have decided that facing the Yanks’ clean-up hitter with the bases loaded is preferable to facing Mark Teixeira with two runners in scoring position. In the bottom of the fifth after a Derek Jeter walk and a Nick Swisher single followed by an Ichiro error put runners on second and third, Luke French and the Mariners intentionally walked Mark Teixeira.
That walk marked the fourth time this season Mark Teixeira has been intentionally put on first to load the bases. In two of the three previous times, Alex Rodriguez has followed with a grand slam. Today, with A-Rod on the DL, the onus fell on Robinson Cano, and he obliged. On the first pitch, Cano took a dead-red change-up 425 feet into the right field bleachers, and the Yanks had their 5-0 lead. Cano would add two more RBI later in the game for 86 on the season to go with his 25 home runs.
Cano on Sunday went 2 for 2 with runners on scoring position, and although clutch hitting is an overrated way to analyze the game, his hitting in these situations has vastly improved this year. Last year, he batted just .207/.242/.332 with runners in scoring position. This year, in 158 plate appearances before Sunday, Cano was batting .302/.405/.512 with runners in scoring position. He walked eight times in all of 2009 with runners on second or third; he’s already taken a base on balls 24 times in those situations this year. He’s becoming more patient and is driving the ball with authority. With A-Rod out, he’s a fine clean-up hitter.
Odds and Ends
Lance Berkman may have been the big name pick-up for the Yanks at the trade deadline, but Austin Kearns has been the impact player. His home run in the fourth was his second for the Bombers, and he’s now 14 for 41 in his short stint in the Bronx. He’s the type of player who should be on the Yanks’ bench to start the season, and the Yanks would do well to keep him around next year.
Joba Chamberlain pitched 1.1 scoreless innings to close out the game. His ERA is now 4.80, and although his FIP stands at 3.10, his regression has been a welcome addition to the bullpen. Perhaps anointing him the eighth inning guy wasn’t the proper approach in the first place. Joba’s still very young and could still be a very valuable member of the Yanks’ pitching staff in the future. He’s thrown 12 innings over his last 11 outings, allowing just a run in the process, and he’s been more economical with his pitches as well.
The Yankees are now hitting .419 with the bases loaded this year, and Cano’s grand slam was the team’s 10th of the season, tying a franchise record. This is the first time in team history three players have had at least two grand slams each. Those players are A-Rod, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano.
Both Tampa Bay and Boston won this afternoon so the Yanks’ AL East lead remains at 1 over the Rays and 6.5 over the Red Sox. By winning though, the Yanks tick another day off the calendar as a playoff spot draws ever nearer.
Graphs and Numbers
The Yankees are fleeing the country. They’re heading up to Toronto for a three-game set against the Blue Jays. Ivan Nova (0-0, will make his first Major League start. Toronto will counter with Brandon Morrow (9-6, 4.45). The game starts at 7:07 p.m.