Battery creates positive sparks
Not that Yankees manager Joe Girardi would ever concede that he allow pitchers to have their favorite catcher, but backup backstop Chris Stewart was again behind the plate Sunday in a game started by CC Sabathia. It marked the third consecutive game Stewart has caught Sabathia. The Yankees have won all three games.
“We’ve been on the same page,” Sabathia said after his sturdy, eight-inning effort in a 6-2 Yanks victory over Detroit. “This is the second straight game that I didn’t shake him off. He has been calling great games. He also catches me on my throw days in the bullpen. It’s a good deal.”
Girardi didn’t get into the issue back in the 1990s when he was the Yankees’ regular catcher but manager Joe Torre allowed Jim Leyritz, then the backup, to work behind the plate regularly with Andy Pettitte. But then, even Girardi has succumbed to that situation when he had Francisco Cervelli work regularly with A.J Burnett the past two years.
Yet the skipper maintained that Sabathia and Stewart is not a permanent battery despite the success. Sabathia was 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in his first two starts with regular Russell Martin behind the plate and is 3-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his three starts with Stewart catching.
“It has just kind of worked out that way,” Girardi said. “I think it’s easier for a backup catcher who is only going to catch once or maybe twice a week to work with only one or two starters.”
Sabathia’s performance was just what Girardi and the Yankees needed Sunday after the bullpen was spent from working 7 1/3 innings Saturday and 4 2/3 innings Friday night. Except for David Robertson, who pitched the ninth, the guys in the pen had a day off, thanks to CC, who scattered four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.
Prince Fielder homered off a hanging slider in the fourth inning, and Miguel Cabrera rapped a run-scoring double in the sixth. Considering the damage those two can do, Sabathia had a good day. The Yankees’ offense, which has bailed out so many starters this year with seven comeback victories, stalled for CC somewhat Sunday as 15 runners were stranded, but home runs by Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones and two RBI from Alex Rodriguez proved sufficient support.
A-Rod moved past Willie Mays on the career RBI list into eighth place with 1,904. Derek Jeter had two infield hits to flirt with .400 again at .396, and Robinson Cano showed signs of coming out of his early-season doldrums with two well-struck singles and an RBI.
On the downside, however, was an injury to Nick Swisher, who has been the Yankees’ most productive hitter (.284, 9 doubles, 6 home runs, 23 RBI) but had to come out of the game in the third inning after drawing a walk. An MRI revealed a low-grade strain of the left hamstring that will keep him out of action for several days.
The Yankees inserted Jones in left field and moved Raul Ibanez to right, an arrangement that may continue during the upcoming three-game series against the Orioles at the Stadium unless the Yanks dip into the minors for temporary help. Brett Gardner (strained right elbow) is not due to come off the 15-day disabled list until Thursday.