CC Sabathia has spent 16 years in the major leagues — almost half his life — and seen just about everything the game has to offer. There are the awards and accolades that peppered most of his career, and the adulation of fans the nation over. There was a dark side, too: the thought that he was washed up and the proclamations that he should have waited until the Yankees were out of the playoffs last season before going into alcohol rehab.
The lefthander was the hard-luck loser Thursday afternoon as the Yankees fell to the Blue Jays, 3-1, at the Stadium. But at 35, Sabathia, who’s been through just about everything, appears to be going through something new even to him: signs of a revival.
“We feel good when he takes the mound,” Joe Girardi said. “He has three really good starts in a row and really, most of his starts have been decent. We’ve always said that CC really knows how to pitch, and if someone can figure it out, he’s going to figure it out, and that’s what he’s doing.”
A rickety two-run third inning that included an error by Didi Gregorius tarnished a brilliant performance by Sabathia (3-3), who allowed two runs (both of which were unearned), two hits and a walk in seven innings, striking out seven. In his last three starts, Sabathia has allowed one earned run, 11 hits and four walks with 21 strikeouts in 20 innings.
“His cutter was great today,” Brian McCann said. “He got it up in under their hands, kept the sinker down and away, and he’s putting that backdoor slider wherever he wants it.”
The Blue Jays received a brilliant performance of their own from lefty J.A. Happ (6-2, 3.20), who allowed one run and three hits in seven innings.
Starlin Castro homered to right-center with two outs in the first inning, but the Yankees had only three other runners get as far as second base. Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 in his return from the disabled list and Carlos Beltran struck out four times.
“[Happ] really hit the corners and pitched both sides of the plate,” McCann said. “Today was one of those days where we couldn’t put anything together. CC gave us all the chances to win this one and we couldn’t win it.”
With one out in the third, Devon Travis hit a grounder to short that Gregorius tried to backhand but missed after the ball hit the lip off the grass and took a high hop. With two outs, Jose Bautista singled to center and Josh Donaldson walked to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion, who drilled a two-run single to left to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead. They also strung together three opposite-field singles to right against Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, capped by Travis’ RBI hit.
Sabathia continued a good stretch by the Yankees’ starting pitchers. In the last eight games, they have a 1.95 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP in 50 2⁄3 innings.
Sabathia’s ERA dropped to 2.83, the lowest it’s been since April 17, 2013, when it was 2.57. Sabathia hasn’t had an ERA this low this late since 2011, when he was an All-Star and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.
His fastball touched 93, the highest it’s been all season. Before this start, he topped out at 91.5 mph and averaged 87.3.
“It’s starting to warm up so I’m starting to feel a little better,” Sabathia said, adding that it shows “that I’m healthy and I’ll just continue to get better and hopefully I can just build on that and keep helping this team trying to win.”
That, at least, is something he’s had some experience with in the past.