CC Sabathia good, but A.J. Griffin better in New York Yankees' loss to Oakland Athletics

05/04/2013 1:46 AM ET
By Jon Lane

CC Sabathia gave up two runs over six innings in the Yankees' 2-0 loss to the Athletics on Friday night.(AP)
The call was innocuous enough -- home plate umpire Jordan Baker ruled a 2-2 breaking ball that New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and battery mate Chris Stewart each thought was a strike to Oakland Athletics batter Jed Lowrie a ball. Baker thought it was a wee bit outside the strike zone, leaving Sabathia inches from a needed clean inning. Lowrie eventually stroked a single that left the normally composed big lefty upset with himself.

Note that "with himself" are the operative words that will come into play shortly. During the early years of his career, Sabathia often fretted over umpires calls. As he's matured, Sabathia made it a point to not look at the men in blue even on a check swing. Still, one couldn't blame him for being frustrated to the point of yelling at himself. That is except Baker, who took exception to Sabathia's mouth even if the verbiage wasn't hurled at the plate umpire's direction. The situation became tense enough to where Stewart had to act as a buffer and Joe Girardi made an early mound visit to calm his ace down.

"I can't be yelled at," Sabathia said. "I'm a grown man and I didn't say nothing to him, and he came back from behind the plate. I guess he thought I was talking to him, but I wasn't."

Concluded as a case of miscommunication, it was a microcosm of the Yankees' night in a 2-0 loss to the Athletics. It was only New York's second defeat in eight games, but its second shutout loss that dropped it to 2-6 in the last eight against Oakland and left Sabathia stuck with his third defeat despite giving up just two runs in six innings pitched. Alas, the pitching line was cosmetic in a sense that many of the A's six hits off the left-hander were bullets and Oakland made Sabathia exert himself in throwing a season-high 118 pitches.

"He had to work hard to keep it 2-0," Girardi said.

The A's struck first, struck hard and struck immediately when Adam Rosales connected on his first big-league home run on the first pitch of the game, the second time Sabathia gave up a first-pitch, leadoff homer (Austin Jackson on August 17, 2010). Perhaps approaching the 60-pitch mark in the third also got to Sabathia, who maybe could have benefited from the preserved ammunition if Baker had given him the called third strike, if not the benefit of the doubt.

"It was miscommunication," Stewart said. "CC was mad at himself and the umpire thought he was talking to him. It was overblown. It was close, but it's the ump's discretion. I would have liked him to call a strike, but he didn't."

Griffin entered the game 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA in two career starts against New York, but on Friday shut out the Yankees for seven innings and let them 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. The Yanks' last threat came in the seventh when Jayson Nix doubled with two out. Girardi, looking for the big bang, sent up power-hitting Brennan Boesch to represent the potential tying run. Boesch worked the count full, but Griffin bore down and struck out Boesch to end the threat.

"CC gave us six good innings," Stewart said. "We just couldn't hit their guy."

"Their guy" was Griffin, a 25-year old right-hander who entered the game winless in his last three outings and a career 1-0 record with a 5.23 ERA against the Yankees. But on this night, Griffin was in complete control to become the seventh right-handed opposing starter at the current Yankee Stadium to shut down the Yankees for at least seven innings. The Yankees had two runners on base only once, the third inning. Griffin struck out four and walked one before being removed for Sean Doolittle after Gardner's bunt single to start the eighth.

"I was just really trying to spot my fastball," Griffin said. "That was the game plan, just mix it up and try to keep guys off balance. Just basically trying to pitch, that's the bottom line."

Just like their starting pitcher, it left the Yankees shaking their heads and lamenting their fate.

"Griffin did a great job changing speeds," Wells said. "There are nights when you have to give the guy on the mound credit and he did a good job. He made pitches when he needed too. CC battled. He gave us an opportunity … but we ran into somebody who unfortunately was a little better than CC tonight." comments