Mookie Betts hacked feebly at CC Sabathia’s 97th and final pitch, and the Red Sox right fielder was only able to send a dribbler 55 feet to the right of the mound.
But the 37-year-old Sabathia, all 300 pounds of him, quickly pivoted from his follow-through, scooped up the ball and threw it underhand to Greg Bird for the final out of the seventh inning. As Sabathia jogged off the Stadium field to cheers from the 47,120 sold-out crowd, the big lefty pumped his pitching arm and let out a roar that included some choice language not suitable for any family newspaper.
Yes, the late George Steinbrenner’s adage that “you can never have enough pitching” will always apply to the Yankees, and the intra-borough intrigue escalated slightly during batting practice Friday when the Bombers’ general manager Brian Cashman challenged the Mets to man up, and to not rule out the Yankees when it comes to possible trade suitors.
But even if Cashman doesn’t complete a deadline trade for an elite starter – names such as J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels and Michael Fulmer could be considerations – the Yankee front office and manager Aaron Boone shouldn’t squirm too much about their starting rotation, especially after the veteran Sabathia’s gem to start a three-game series with division rival Boston.
“That might have been his best outing,” Boone said of Sabathia’s Friday night, where he lasted seven innings and gave up a run on six hits. He struck out five, walked one and hit one batsman. “CC set the tone by controlling their offense.”
Wasn’t it only less than a year ago when Sabathia went on the disabled list with right knee inflammation and said at the time that he was contemplating retirement?
And then there was earlier this season, when Sabathia spoke about possibly hanging up the spikes after 2018 if the Yankees win their 28th title this fall. With more outings like Friday – against the loaded Red Sox lineup no less – Sabathia is doing his part to try and make that World Series berth a reality. The drive and passion he showed after making the out on Betts only underscored Sabathia’s desire to do his part in Boone’s rotation.
“Just frustrated. Had the lefty (Jackie Bradley Jr.) up there and let him on base with two outs,” said Sabathia, referring to plunking Bradley in the seventh when he had already whiffed Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez. “Mookie’s one of the best hitters in baseball. Never want to give him a chance with a runner on base. I think it was just the emotion. I’m an old man. That was just straight adrenaline.”
“We feed off that, the energy that (Sabathia) provides,” added Aaron Judge.
Yes, the Yankees certainly won’t mind if an arm like Hamels or Fulmer – or, ahem, Jacob deGrom – is added to the club, should such a trade scenario present itself and prove too appealing for Cashman to reject.
But with Masahiro Tanaka likely to return from the DL in the near future, and with ace Luis Severino and an improving Sonny Gray set to take on Boston in the other two games this weekend, Yankee fans should consider themselves lucky if any such new acquisition materializes. Their team is already well-positioned for October, even without a shiny new arm.
Sabathia showed what he is capable of bringing to the table with his playoff-worthy outing Friday.
“Any time CC goes to the mound, the way he’s throwing the ball, really for the most part this entire season, we feel great handing it to him,” said Boone.