2017-08-09 00:58:02
Blue Jays 4, Yankees 2: C.C. Sabathia’s Resurgence Dealt a Setback in Yankees’ Loss

00:58, August 09 103 0

TORONTO — When C.C. Sabathia’s premier fastball abandoned him and years of carrying 300 pounds took its toll on his knees, an overhaul was in order. So he developed a cut fastball and a sinker, put a brace on his balky right knee and became a dedicated student of video, something he never felt he needed to do.

The transformation was not immediate, but Sabathia has proved to be more than a veteran presence in the Yankees’ clubhouse this season. He has buttressed the emerging ace Luis Severino atop the rotation, turning in his best season in five years.

Still, for all the work Sabathia has done, he is still a big 37-year-old man on a bum knee. And on Tuesday night, his fragile foundation crumbled a bit more, as he left a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays after three innings with an injury to his right knee.

Sabathia, who allowed two home runs to Josh Donaldson and whose velocity and command were both diminished, will head back to New York on Wednesday to be examined by doctors to determine the extent of the injury.

While it is uncertain whether Sabathia is headed for the disabled list for the second time in three months — he missed three weeks with a hamstring strain in June — Sabathia, a typically resolute pitcher, was despondent afterward.

“It wasn’t one pitch, it was the whole time,” he said. “Right now, I just want to pitch. I want to get out there and be healthy and pitch.”

Sabathia said this was the worst his degenerative right knee had felt since he began wearing the brace in September 2015. He plants on his right knee as he delivers to the plate.

Though Sabathia said the knee was bothering him throughout, Manager Joe Girardi said he noticed Sabathia grabbing at his knee brace in the third inning.

“He’ll feel it one pitch every once in a while, but when he came off, he said he was feeling it every pitch, and that’s why I pulled him,” Girardi said.

Girardi said the team would decide whether to place Sabathia on the disabled list after the doctor’s evaluation. Even though Sabathia missed time with the hamstring injury, he was enjoying a renaissance season in the final year of his seven-year, $161 million contract, having built a 9-4 record and a 3.81 earned run average before Tuesday’s loss.

“He’s a very important piece to this team,” catcher Gary Sanchez said. “As you guys know, he’s a veteran who knows how to pitch. He’s been pitching in the big leagues for such a long time, and he’s been doing it at a really good pace for us.”

Sanchez, returning to the lineup after being benched on Sunday for his poor defensive habits, also had an injury scare, getting hit on the left wrist by a pitch from reliever Ryan Tepera in the eighth inning. Sanchez remained in the game and did not require an X-ray afterward, but he wore a wrap on his hand.

The injuries were not all that wiped away the good vibes the Yankees had built after managing a split of their four-game series in Cleveland during the weekend.

The defeat bumped them to four games behind Boston in the American League East, and their offense — after an eight-run outburst in a victory Sunday — continued its recent feckless ways. The Yankees put 14 runners on base, but they did not have an extra-base hit and could push across runs only on Garrett Cooper’s two-out, second-inning single and his eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

But both of those innings could have delivered far bigger returns. Todd Frazier grounded into a double play with runners on first and second and none out in the second, preceding Cooper’s hit. And when the Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth on two hit batters and a walk, Ronald Torreyes followed Cooper’s sacrifice fly by lining out to center field. It was the last, best chance for the Yankees, who were retired in order in the ninth by Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna.

While Cooper, who singled twice, delivered both Yankees runs, he had an opportunity to deliver more but flied out with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning.

If there was some good news for the Yankees’ ailing offense, it is that some injured Yankees are getting healthier. Outfielder Aaron Hicks, who has been out since late June with an oblique injury, could return Friday for the series against Boston at Yankee Stadium, and first baseman Greg Bird and second baseman Starlin Castro could be headed for rehab assignments in about a week.

But Sabathia’s injury, if it proves to be serious, could be a big problem for the Yankees. Donaldson belted a 2-0 changeup over the center-field wall for a two-run homer in the first, and smacked a 3-0 cut fastball just inside the left-field foul pole in his next at-bat in the third inning. The four runs were all the Blue Jays needed.

“It’s just hard to land; it’s hard for me to finish my pitches,” Sabathia said of the injury. “It’s hard for me to get over my front side and finish my pitches. When I can’t do that, I don’t know where the ball is going.”