SAN DIEGO -- How much worse can it get for the Yankees?
Honestly, not much worse than a 7-2 loss to the Padres, the second-worst team in baseball's weakest division, the National League West. The Pads went in nine games under .500 but smacked the Yankees' erstwhile ace, CC Sabathia, around for five runs in less than six innings, added another one on a home run off future-closer-turned-mop-up-man Joba Chamberlain and completed the scoring with a long homer by Will Venable in the eighth off Adam Warren. The Yankees' offense wasted a good scoring opportunity off Andrew Cashner in the first and managed only three singles after the second inning.
And to make it worse, the Padres committed three baserunning blunders in the game and still enjoyed a laugher.
The good news, if there is any, is that with the Red Sox losing, the Yankees remain 8 1/2 games back in the American League East and 3 1/2 out of the second wild-card spot, otherwise known as a one-day delay on the start of winter vacation.
Stuck for answers: Sabathia had his fourth straight horrific start, allowing five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, and over that stretch has a 10.06 ERA. Once again, he had trouble putting hitters away, had poor control (three walks) and had poor command in the strike zone. He allowed 11 hits for the second time this season and failed to get out of the sixth inning for the fourth straight time since throwing a complete-game loss -- his last good outing -- against the Royals on July 9.
Jeter OK? Asked before the game how Derek Jeter came out of his first back-to-back games at shortstop, Joe Girardi replied with a lukewarm, "He's doing OK." But Jeter slid awkwardly going from first to third in the first inning, appeared to hobble a little after flying out in the third, and took a very awkward step fielding a potential double-play ball in the seventh and threw wide past Robinson Cano at second. It is certainly a subject to be revisited after the game.
24 and counting: Sabathia hung a 3-2 changeup to Logan Forsythe, who belted it into the left-field seats with one out in the fourth inning, giving San Diego a 3-2 lead. It was the 24th homer allowed by CC this season, a career high. And he still has about a dozen starts to go.
Triple trouble: Three hitters after Forsythe's homer, Everth Cabrera tripled into the right-field gap, scoring Cashner from first with the Pads' fourth run of the game. To make it worse, Cashner reached base only because Sabathia, apparently thinking the ball had gone through, failed to cover first after Lyle Overbay snagged the one-hopper going to his right. Instead of the third out, the Pads got a baserunner who wound up scoring.
Not again: Sabathia got off to a terrible start, allowing singles to the first two hitters and walking the bases loaded in the first inning. He then walked in a run -- the 2-2 pitch to Yonder Alonso could have been called a strike by plate ump Mike DiMuro -- and allowed a second run when Jedd Gyorko's grounder caromed off CC's back foot and Cano could only get the out at first. Earlier, Jeter bypassed a chance to get the lead runner on Chase Headley's grounder to short and Headley beat the relay throw to first, setting up the Pads' first run. Sabathia needed 28 pitches to get through the inning.
Helping the cause: Sabathia, who's a pretty good hitter, tied the game in the second with a hard-hit groundout to third, scoring Eduardo Nunez from third. Earlier in the inning, Nunez had doubled home Ichiro Suzuki (single) for the Yankees' first run of the game.
Gardner hose: The Padres lost a chance to retake the lead in the third inning when Brett Gardner's one-hop throw from center field nailed Headley at the plate trying to score from second on Alonso's single to center. Chris Stewart took a shot while slapping the tag on and fell to the ground face-first momentarily, but popped up and stayed in the game.
Not-so-Grand: Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4 in his first game back, including two strikeouts, one with two runners on in the first inning.