Robinson Cano chats with former teammate Derek Jeter during his first game back in the Bronx. Credit: Getty Images
The return of Robinson Cano was the main event for those who braved cool, rainy conditions at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night, but the Yankees were just hoping for a third straight solid outing from CC Sabathia.
Instead, the Yankees had to go to the bullpen in with nobody out in the sixth in a dreary 6-3 loss to the Mariners in Cano’s first game in the Bronx since leaving in December.
Cano heard boos at every turn. While they weren’t as loud when he chatted with former Yankee teammates on the field before the first pitch, they were noticeable once the game started.
"Am I surprised? No, because I didn't really go into it with any expectations,” Derek Jeter said. “Some people cheered. I saw some people cheer. Most people booed. Unless you go and ask everyone why they did it. Some people probably booed because they wish he was here. Some people booed because they're upset he left and some people may have booed because the people next to them are booing. It is what it is. It's not the first time that somebody's come back and got booed."
"I wasn't sure what was gonna happen,” manager Joe Girardi said. “As I said, there's gonna be some cheers and there's probably gonna be some boos. People probably didn't want him to leave. That's part of the game.”
Cano heard the boos when he stepped in for his first at-bat and even more when he took the field. He was even serenaded with chants of “You sold out” by some fans. They continued in subsequent at-bats, including when he reached on an error and scored an insurance run in the seventh.
By that point the heavy rains drove many in the crowd on their way home, yet the boos were still loud as Cano batted in the eighth.
Before the rain intensified, it was a mixed night for Sabathia, who had won his last eight decisions over the Mariners.
Sabathia allowed four runs and 10 hits while lasting two batters into the sixth. He pitched well through the first four innings but was done in by three soft singles to start the fifth before Cano came up with the bases loaded. Cano grounded weakly to first base but it was a productive out.
“It's frustrating,” Sabathia said. “It just is what it is. I made good pitches to get to two outs and I need to just finish the inning."
On the next pitch Sabathia allowed a two-run double to cleanup hitter Corey Hart. Justin Smoak, who had looked helpless striking out on Sabathia’s off-speed stuff an inning earlier, followed with an RBI single.
“I'm always confident, even with the bases loaded,” Sabathia said. “I'm just thinking about making a pitch and damage control. I've just got to make a better pitch to Corey right there.”
The sequence was set up by a replay challenge reversing a groundout by Mike Zunino on which second baseman Brian Roberts failed to cover first base on a bunt by former Yankee minor leaguer Abraham Almonte.
“I took off, but it was just too far from me,” Roberts said. “I've got to be able to cover the double play and the bunt. Obviously it's a situation where you have no idea what he's gonna do. Obviously there's a chance I guess he could bunt but there's also a pretty good chance he could swing too. It's unfortunate. We need to get an out there one way or another somehow.”
Before the game unraveled in the fifth, the Yankees had a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Mark Teixeira’s third home run and Roberts’ alert dash home on a throwing error by Zunino trying to catch Brett Gardner at second.
“It seemed like we squared some balls up but we just didn't square them up enough,” Girardi said. “It's frustrating. It started off good and didn't end up so well.”