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CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…
Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.
It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.
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Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.
Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.
I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.
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Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.
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With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.
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Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.
Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.
Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.
Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask. Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.
Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!