With one out in the seventh inning Brendan Ryan stepped up to the plate to face CC Sabathia. CC had dispatched the first 19 Mariners in order. When Ichiro buckled and flailed at a high slider before Ryan, that was the 12th Mariner to strike out. In the booth John Flaherty noticed that CC had missed a few spots in the Ichiro at-bat. He said it was the first time all night that Sabathia didn’t put the ball exactly where he wanted it.
The first pitch to Ryan was a fastball that spilled out of CC’s hand low and away. The second was a breaking ball, and like the one to Ichiro, it wasn’t tight and Ryan took it outside for ball two. CC came at the two-hole hitter with a decent challenge fastball, low, 94 MPH, and out over the plate. Ryan was sitting dead red, as he should be with a 2-0 count, and stroked it into center field for a clean single.
The groan could be heard across my neighborhood. CC Sabathia has lost a perfect game on a night he had perfect stuff.
CC applied the special secret sauce against the Mariners. Hardly fair, as just about any kind of sauce probably would have choked ’em. He may have been too unhittable to record the perfect game that seemed possible, even likely, as Mariner after Mariner drowned on his slider. CC struck out 14 in seven innings, with seven in a row at one stretch.
But maybe all those strikeouts take a toll on a pitcher? I know his pitch count was not in the danger zone when he let up the only hit of the night, but I wonder if he mixed in a few ground outs and pop outs he would have been able to close it out.
And oh yeah, it rained. The two rain delays surely threw off his rhythm, but maybe it also messed up the Mariners as well. I don’t want to complain, but it sure would be nice if this one had played out straight through and then let the hits fall where they may.
Let also not forget the opponent here. How much of CC’s performance was due the Mariners playing the worst baseball in the league for the last few weeks, we don’t know. But CC hasn’t had any trouble with anybody else lately, so I’m inclined to give most of the credit to the big man and his slider from hell.
CC’s two-plus years with the Yankees have been an absolute pleasure. The last time I wrote about him, I wondered if we’d seen a better three-year span since Guidry. We haven’t. Looking at their performance relative to the American League, in bWAR, CC has finished in the top 10 twice and is firmly entrenched a third time. Before him only a handful of Yankee greats managed that feat: Guidry, Ford twice, Reynolds, Ruffing twice, Gomez and Pennock. (Thanks to my brother Chris for crunching those numbers with me.) We know the big man is great, but it’s this constant, dependable greatness that distinguishes him.
After the hit, both of the teams realized they still had to play the rest of the game, and I think they were as disappointed as the rest of us. CC was gassed, and walked three in a row to start the eighth. With the Yankees only leading 3-0 at this point, the win was in some small peril. But the home plate umpire put his “two-rain-delay strike zone” in effect and helped David Robertson wiggle out of the jam with only one run scoring. Mariano had the benefit of the same zone in the the ninth, and that’s like widening the highway lanes for Jimmie Johnson. The Yankees won 4-1.
Fourteen strike outs for CC. Fifteen wins for the big guy. Sixteen games back in the AL West for Seattle. Seventeen losses in a row. Eighteen strike outs for the Yankees as a team. Nineteen straight Mariners sent down to start the game.
One lousy hit.