Hours before his team would endure another frustrating loss, Yankee manager Joe Girardi stressed that CC Sabathia’s location was more important than velocity.
For four innings, Sabathia displayed the location of an ace.
In the fifth, his location lost its way during a span of 25 pitches to doom the Yankees to a 6-4 loss. The Orioles lost 3-2 to the Athletics Friday night keeping New York tied with Baltimore atop the AL East.
Sabathia cruised through four innings and seemed headed for another sharp inning but he was unable to finish hitters off, specifically Chris Gimenez and Carlos Pena.
He had Gimenez at 1-2 but got beat on his fastball for a double to the left-center field gap. He had the same count on Pena but threw a slider well outside of the strike zone that put runners at the corners.
“I just can’t 0-2 on a guy and give up a double and walk Pena,” Sabathia said. “Stuff like that kills you.
“It’s frustrating not being able to get out of those situations where it ends up costing us the game.”
The missed location to Gimenez and Pena proved even more costly when Elliott Johnson sneaked the game-tying single into short right field and Desmond Jennings knocked in the go-ahead run on a single that just got past a diving Eduardo Nunez.
“It just looked like he started missing his spots,” Girardi said. “It looked like he left a fastball. He ended walking Pena and I thought that was the big hitter.”
After allowing the two runs, he gave up the third run on a double play grounder to Evan Longoria and the fourth on a single to Ben Zobrist in the seventh.
Sabathia lost his third straight decision, something he had not done as a Yankee until now. He also gave up a lead for the fifth straight start while allowing four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
“Not making pitches,” Sabathia said of the reason he has struggled his last five outings. “I had two strikes a couple of times and didn’t make a pitch to get out of that inning. I need to get a double play, get a ground ball and just different things.”
During the stretch following his second DL stint, Sabathia has allowed 15 earned runs and 35 hits in 33 2/3 innings. Sabathia insists that his arm and everything else feels good.
“I still believe in CC,” Girardi said. “There’s a guy who has done so many special things for us here, so I still believe in him. He’s a big factor in this; we know that. Since he’s been here in 2009, he’s been the leader of our staff. He’s a big part of it.”
“CC has pitched well,” Jeter said. “I’m sure he has not pitched as good as he would have liked to but he still kept us in the game and we kept fighting to try and get back into it but they scored those runs late. CC’s going to be fine. He’s going to have games where he shuts teams down and he’s going to have games where he gives up a couple of runs but we still have a lot of confidence in him.”
The three runs might not have been a big deal but considering the Yankee hitting woes with runners in scoring position and against left-handed pitching, they loomed large. The Yankees scored their final three runs on Curtis Granderson’s 39th home run in the fifth and Alex Rodriguez’s two-run shot in the eighth off right-handed reliever Joel Peralta.
They had a rally going in the eighth until Granderson swung at a first pitch and grounded out, capping a 1-for-6 performance with runners in scoring position. They also had a chance in the fifth when Jeter passed Willie Mays into 10th place on the all-time hits list, but Nick Swisher and Rodriguez halted any progress as part of a 5-for-27 showing off David Price.
“We faced good teams,” Jeter said. “We’re playing some good pitching. They played better than us tonight. If you don’t play better than the other team more often than not you’re going to lose.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.