Innings like the sixth rarely happen for CC Sabathia. So when it occurs, there is no real explanation for it but when it happens in late-September with nine games remaining in a tight divisional race, there are potential consequences.
Instead of ending their season series with Tampa Bay by going up 3 ½ games, the lead reverted back to a half game again with an ugly 10-3 loss Thursday night.
The Yankees will now have a weekend series with the Red Sox to try and clinch at the least a wild card berth as any combination of wins and Boston losses adding up to three secures that.
“We want to win the AL East,” catcher Jorge Posada said. “For most of the season, we’ve been on top. We want to finish on top.”
By getting blown out in the last two games, the Yankees missed an opportunity to take their largest lead in two months. They will head into the weekend with a half game being the difference for the 13th time since August.
Though they desire home-field advantage, the Yankees will not risk overextending anyone, which is why they pulled their entire starting lineup in the final three innings.
The Yankees didn’t figure any of that would be necessary when Sabathia took the mound. They anticipated he would be good for six, seven or possibly eight innings.
Instead, the opposite occurred and it happened immediately after the Yankees left the bases loaded against David Price.
With the Yankees holding a 3-1 lead, the Rays scored seven runs in 28 minutes and sent Sabathia to his earliest non-rain shortened departure since May 23.
The hits began and ended with Carl Crawford. Crawford started with an infield hit to third and scored on a swinging bunt by Rocco Baldelli. Willy Aybar tied it with a base hit and Kelly Shoppach put the Yankees behind by drawing a bases-loaded walk and ending Sabathia’s night.
Joba Chamberlain inflicted more damage by allowing a two-run double to B.J. Upton followed by a two-run single from Crawford.
Sabathia was charged with seven earned runs and 10 hits. The seven runs were his most since allowing nine for the Indians against the Tigers on April 16, 2008.
“I’m definitely disappointed. It was a big game,” Sabathia said. “Trying to win this division is our main goal, and not being able to come through tonight, I feel bad. These guys put some tough at-bats on Price and scored some runs. He’s been good all year, and I wasn’t able to come through. I feel like I let these guys down.”
What also might be deflating is what lies ahead in the next 10 days.
While the Yankees have six games against the Red Sox and a visit to the pesky Blue Jays, the Rays host the Mariners over the weekend without having to see Felix Hernandez They conclude the year at home against the Orioles before visiting the Royals for four games.
And if they fall short of both goals and lose early in the playoffs, they will lament what occurred in the fifth and sixth innings of their final regular-season game with Tampa Bay.
“We’re basically back to where we started April 1 — with a lot less games to play,” manager Joe Girardi said.