The Opening week storybook turned the page again tonight, to the CC Sabathia chapter. Hindered by physical ailments, diminishing velocity, and performance regression over the past few seasons, CC was hoping to come back healthy and better in 2015. He didn't pitch all that well in his Spring Training outings, and that was something that both the media and he noticed. They were quick to spin his problems into doomsday scenarios and he was quick to curse and get upset when he talked to him after starts. But all that took a backseat to his return to regular season game action tonight.
CC came out dealing in the top of the 1st, striking out Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista in a 1-2-3 inning. He wasn't so lucky in the 2nd, putting a few runners on, missing with some key pitches, and getting burned by bad ground ball luck and bad defensive shifting strategy. It all combined to provide Toronto 4 runs for a comfortable early lead, and the good vibes from CC's first inning back were quickly extinguished.
The lineup behind him was not especially productive early, and that wasn't hard to understand considering lefty hitters Brett Gardner, Stephen Drew, and Brian McCann were benched for righties Chris Young, Gregorio Petit, and John Ryan Murphy. You have to do this when you face a left-handed starter, you see. Didi Gregorius singled in Murphy in the 5th to get the Yanks on the board, but that was all they had to show through those 5 innings.
Then the fireworks started in the 6th. Alex Rodriguez got a 1-0 89 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate from Daniel Norris and he was looking fastball all the way. He crushed it into the left field seats for a leadoff home run, his first of the year. 5 pitches later Mark Teixeira took Norris yard and the Yankees had pulled within 1. A hit batsman and a 2-out double put the go-ahead run in scoring position, but pinch hitter Drew struck out to end the rally.
New York wouldn't get any closer. The offense had 0 hits over the final 3 innings, and Joe's decision to stick with Esmil Rogers against Edwin Encarnacion in the 8th proved to be the death blow when Encarnacion took Rogers deep for an insurance 2-run homer. The game and the series belonged to the Jays.
- Final line on CC: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 0 BB, 8 K. Take away that crappy BIP/shift luck in the 2nd and he was really good. Dominant at times. His fastball command was there, his movement was there, his pitch mix was solid. He got 15 swinging strikes! He looked a lot better than he did last year. Just didn't make a handful of pitches and it cost him.
- A-Rod also drew a walk in addition to his yardjob, making him 1 of 3 players in the lineup to reach base multiple times. He struck out in his other 2 PA.
- Another multi-on baser was Murphy, who hit the double in the 6th to set up the potential go-ahead at-bat and doubled to lead off the 5th. Guess Joe knew what he was doing there.
- Not so much when it came to the decision to sit Gardner. Chris Young walked and took the HBP, but he also went 0-2 and struck out, and Carlos Beltran didn't look great going 1-4 with 2 K. Gardner has hit lefties better than Beltran over the last 2 years, he's younger, and presumably in better physical shape. He shouldn't be relegated to platoon bench duty against southpaws.
- Congrats to Didi for his first career Yankee RBI. Shame shame on him for another boneheaded baserunning play though. Seriously, Didi. Take it easy, man. Just be cool.
- David Carpenter pitched a scoreless 9th.
- The Yanks don't have much time to shake this sluggish opening series off. The Red Sox are coming to town for the weekend. That should be fun.