CC mounting another case for ‘Cy’
Normalcy returned to Yankees Universe Saturday at Toronto. Not surprisingly, CC Sabathia was responsible for that after two games in which the Bombers were crying “O, Canada” after being outscored, 23-8, and playing some of their sloppiest baseball all year. With three errors Thursday night and two more Friday night, the Yankees had successive multi-boot games for the first time since June 27 at Anaheim and June 29 at Seattle last year when they made two errors in each.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi expressed concern before the game that the Blue Jays may have been stealing signs, which has been rumored at Rogers Centre ever since it opened in 1989 as the SkyDome, a much better name, by the way. The retractable-roofed facility is connected to a hotel which has windows facing the plate. There has been suspicion for two decades that the Jays have someone with high-power binoculars peering in at the catcher’s signals and relaying them to the Toronto bench. Yankees catcher Russell Martin, a native Canadian, was constantly changing the team’s signs during the first two games of the series.
“Sometimes we have inclinations that certain things might be happening in certain ballparks and we are aware of it and try to protect our signs,” Girardi told reporters. “If you feel it is coming from somewhere else besides a player on the field, then I do have issues. There are parks where you need to protect your signs. I don’t want to really get into it because I’m not 100 percent sure about anything.”
The only problem with that theory is that the Blue Jays have a losing record (21-23) at home this year. So what happened Saturday when the Jays scored only one run? Did the spyglasses break?
What happened was CC Sabathia for eight innings and Mariano Rivera for one. That’s a lethal combination for any team even if they think they know what pitch is coming. And in Mo’s case, everybody knows what pitch is coming; a cut fastball, but they can’t do much about it.
Sabathia certainly doesn’t seem to have any problems pitching at Rogers Centre where he now has a 6-1 record with a 2.19 ERA in 49 1/3 career innings. Overall against Toronto, CC is 11-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 101 career innings.
The Yankees had another rough game with runners in scoring position (2-for-14), but the two runs they scored in the second inning on doubles by Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, a single by Andruw Jones and an infield out were all Sabathia would need to win his seventh straight start, a stretch in which he has a 1.68 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings. In a dozen starts since May 19, the massive lefthander is 11-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 94 innings.
The run Sabathia allowed in the first inning ended a scoreless stretch of 24 innings, the most for a Yankees starter since May 1980 when Tom Underwood did two-thirds of an inning better.
With a season record of 14-4 and a 2.64 ERA, Sabathia has put himself in the American League Cy Young Award conversation again this season, just as he was last year when he placed third to winner Felix Hernandez of the Mariners and runner-up David Price of the Rays. CC, who won the award in 2007 with the Indians, once again faces a challenge from two other quality starters, Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Jered Weaver of the Angels.
It is shaping up as another close call among three starting pitchers. At this point, Sabathia leads the AL in victories and in winning percentage (.778) and is second in innings (153 2/3), fourth in strikeouts (134) and sixth in ERA.
Verlander has the lead in innings (157) and strikeouts (153), ranks third in ERA (2.29) and has a .706 winning percentage based on a 12-5 record. He has also thrown a no-hitter among his four complete games, which has him tied with Weaver for second place in that category. Sabathia has two complete games, but unlike Verlander and Weaver CC has Rivera to finish off games.
Weaver, who was scheduled to start the second game of a doubleheader Saturday night, has a commanding lead in ERA (1.86) and is tied for fourth with a .733 winning percentage (11-4). Verlander (.192) and Weaver (.194) rank second and third, respectively, in opponents’ batting average (behind the Red Sox’ Josh Beckett’s .187), which gives them an edge over Sabathia, who is holding foes to a .239 average. Verlander and Weaver also have two shutouts apiece to CC’s one.
It may be a case once more of the number of victories (he led the AL in 2010 with 21) not being convincing enough evidence for Cy Young Award voters to lean toward Sabathia, but the value he brings to the Yankees in games such as Saturday’s 4-1 victory is immeasurable. Sabathia’s Cy Young Award candidacy is as legitimate as it gets.