CC Sabathia did what he had to do on Sunday afternoon. He gave the Yankees 6 IP while allowing just 2 ERs, courtesy of back to back solo shots by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. He even notched his 2,500th strikeout. That’s about all the Yankees brass can ask from the once dominant lefty who has been a shadow of himself for the past three years.
An emotional eruption, followed by his first ejection since 2006, was just extra. It was only the sixth inning and Sabathia was at just 87 pitches when ejected, and he left the bullpen to pitch the last three innings but, in post-game comments on the YES Network, you didn’t get the sense that the Yankees were upset with their former ace or his outburst.
The 2015 Sabathia is not the CC of old. His fastball has averaged just 89.3 mph in 2015, compared to 94.1 in the Yankees 2009 championship season, and 91.3 mph in 2013, his last full season of pitching. Still, in his past two starts, he has done enough for his team to win and that’s all the Yankees need.
Here’s the current state of the Yankees rotation: Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda are, for the moment, healthy. Nathan Eovaldi throws a 95+ mph average fastball and the Yankees are 3-0 in his last three starts. Adam Warren, who won the 5th starter's job in Spring Training, has been dominant of late, giving the Yankees both length and wins.
Then there’s CC. The 5th best starter of the bunch. Each time he starts, Yankees Universe crosses their collective fingers and hopes he can avoid that one bad inning while giving the Yankees 6 innings without giving up 4 runs.
For now he is doing just that, but the Yankees have reinforcements on the way in the form of Ivan Nova, and Sabathia had to be paying attention last week when the Yankees sent Chris Capuano, their $5MM offseason pickup, to the pen rather than displace the 27 year old Warren.
To be sure, Capuano has nowhere near the track record and goodwill that Sabathia has with the Yankees and there’s a big difference between $5MM and $24.3MM. Still, the message is clear. The Yankees are going to put the best team on the field even if that means going with unproven but performing players such as Warren and rookie Jacob Lindgren.
So Sabathia may be feeling a little pressure. He knows he needs every strike he can get. He was not at all pleased by a missed strike call and he let the umpire know on his way off the mound.
Sabathia quickly got the boot and then proceeded to “get [his] money’s worth” as he walked over to the umpire. Even the most amateur lip reader could tell that Sabathia’s language was less than friendly. The general consensus on twitter was that Sabathia was scary but I didn’t see it that way. He was surely fired up, though.
It was good to see a little bit of the fist pumping, fired up Sabathia. The one who put the Yankees on his back in 2009. That Sabathia isn’t coming back but, for one game, there he was. Fighting again. For his place in the Yankees rotation and maybe for his pride. Most importantly, though, he was fighting for his team. And the Yankees will take that every time out.