Flickr Image c/o chris.ptacek
Inspiration for the title of this post comes from the always interactive and humorous former Yankees’ beat writer Marc Carig, who loved categorizing vitriol (“He’s not a real ace!”) of CC as “Boarding the Number 52 Hate Train.” I think it is safe to assume that the platform for the hate train was pretty empty this afternoon, as CC turned in one of his best performances of the season. Sure, the Twins’ lineup isn’t exactly Murderer’s Row, and the offense staked CC to an early lead with a big 3rd inning, but it isn’t always easy to pitch ahead and/or come back sharp after a long inning on offense (see: Phil Hughes against the Blue Jays 9/20). The Yankees couldn’t afford to drop 2 in a row against the middling Twins, and they had the right guy for the job on the mound. Coming into this game, CC was 6-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 9 starts after a Yankees’ loss.
Let’s dive in.
I thought he was still hurt. I thought wrong.
If anyone was still wondering if Sabathia had fully recovered from the elbow soreness that warranted a trip to the DL in August (::looks around nervously::) I think that we got our answer this afternoon. The Big Guy turned in his second consecutive dominant performance, throwing 8 innings and churning out 118 pitches in the process. I was a little concerned that the game time temperature of 61 was a little chilly for CC, but it didn’t seem to bother him at all. In fact, he looked rejuvenated. The command was superb, the slider was tight, and the fastball velocity sat at 91-93 even north of 100 pitches. If you were able to catch the matinee this afternoon, you were in for a treat.
It was immediately apparent that CC was feeling it today, even after a somewhat rocky Bottom of the 2nd. Ryan Doumit got things started with a 1B, and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice by Chris Parmalee. With one out Matt Carson – playing for the banged up Josh Willingham – hit a single back through the box to score Doumit and give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Nothing all that hard hit, but we’ve seen CC get dinked and dunked to death before. Right then and there, the Big Guy locked it down and dominated the rest of the way.
After the RBI single to Carson, CC retired 9 straight, including striking out the side in the Bottom of the 4th. The only other rough patch he endured was in the Bottom of the 7th when Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, and Pedro Florimon strung together consecutive 2-out singles to plate the Twins’s second run of the afternoon. CC, however, bounced back to retire Denard Span on a pop up to Eric Chavez for the final out of the inning, and then pitched a 1-2-3 8th to cap an impressive outing. All told, CC looked like an ace to me: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 118 pitches. It was his second consecutive start of 10 or more strikeouts, the first time he’s put together 2 such games in a row since 6/30 and 7/5 2011 (thanks to Sweeny Murti from WFAN for that tidbit).
Game Plan: Knock the Starter Out Early
Mission Accomplished! Well, sort of. Twins’ starter Samuel Deduno was removed after only 1.2 IP for what was later described as “left eye irritation.” It seemed odd at the time, but I did notice that on a ball thrown back by the umpire early in the 2nd inning, Deduno flinched before catching it as though he didn’t see it. On another throw back by catcher Ryan Doumit, the ball hit the outside of Deduno’s glove and dropped to the ground. The sun was behind him, so clearly something was up. He begged to stay in the game, but Gardenhire lifted him for Brian Duensing after only 30 pitches. Always nice to get to a team’s long/middle relief corps early on, but I hope that Deduno’s injury isn’t something more serious than just some dirt in the eye on a windy day.
With 6 lefties in the lineup poised to jump all over the righty Deduno, it would seem that the Yankees would be at a disadvantage upon Duensing’s entry, even though he has not fared well against the Bombers in the past (0-2, 6.75 ERA in 21.1 IP over 2 starts and 6 relief appearances). Duensing retired the lefty Ibanez to end the 2nd, but that was as good as things were going to get for him.
I will now recount the Yankees’ wild 3rd inning in a rapid fire manner, following Chris Stewart’s ground out to begin the frame. With 1 out: Chris Dickerson singled, Ichiro singled, Jeter walked, Cano hit a 2B over Ben Revere’s head in RF (Dickerson and Ichiro scored), Swisher singled (Jeter scored), Granderson tripled (Cano and Swisher scored), Duensing threw a wild pitch (Granderson scored). Duensing then issued a free pass to Eric Chavez before getting Ibanez to ground out for the 2nd out of the inning. Take a breath everybody. When it was all said and done, the Yanks tagged Duensing for 6 runs on 5 hits, 2 walks, and a wild pitch. 6-1 Yanks. The only Yankee who came to the plate in the Top of the 3rd who did not reach base was (a presumably very sad) Raul Ibanez. Poor Raul.
Dickerson would tack on to the Yankees lead with a long 2-run HR to RF in the Top of the 7th, to make it 8-1. After a big year at AAA, where lack of a home field made it a tough year for all Empire State Yanks, Dickerson is making a strong case for a spot on the potential playoff roster. He plays strong defense in both LF and RF, can mash righties, has patience at the plate, a bit of pop, and steals a base from time to time. If Brett Gardner isn’t deemed to be healthy enough for October baseball for whatever reason, the Yankees would be remiss not to bring Dickerson along for the ride.
Robbie Cano followed up last night’s 3-for-3 with a strong 2-for-5 showing today, including a ripped 2B off of a left hander. He’s struggled mightily against lefties this year, and has slumped badly in September, so it is a promising sign to see him put together a couple of good games here in the final days of the season. Maybe a day at DH was really all he needed.
- Derek Jeter finished 0-for-4 with a walk, halting his hitting streak at 19 games. He is still at .320 for the season, good for 4th in the AL.
- According to YES Network Research Manager Jeff Quagliata, CC Sabathia now occupies 52nd place on the all-time strikeouts list, finishing the day at 2,207. He passed both David Wells (2,202) and Grover Cleveland Alexander (2,205).
- I can’t tout Nick Swisher enough for his defense at 1B in the absence of Tex. On Ben Revere’s squibber up the 1B line in the Bottom of the 1st, Swisher charged, scooped the ball up before it went foul, and wheeled to blindly make a throw to Robbie Cano covering 1B for the out. Outstanding play by Swish (and Robbie for getting there).
- Speaking of Tex, he did some amped up running before the game today, and Joe Girardi expects him to play in a sim game this week. It’s unlikely that the Yanks will take a chance with his calf on the turf of the Rogers Centre, so a return against Boston would be more likely.
- David Aardsma warmed up alongside Cody Eppley prior to the 9th inning, but it was Eppley who got the call. Still looking forward to seeing him in game action.
The Orioles take on the Blue Jays tonight in the final game of their set, and will send Miguel Gonzalez (7-4, 3.53 ERA) to the mound against Carlos Villanueva (7-6, 3.88 ERA). I’ll have my eye on that one for sure.
The Yankees will head north for the last time to take on the Blue Jays in a 4 game set, starting tomorrow at 7:07pm. Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) will look to right the ship, again, against Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA). I’ll have the full pitching matchups for you tomorrow, along with some other tidbits. Until then, enjoy, folks.