Joe's not worried, but CC is

August, 3, 2013
8/03/13
2:40
AM ET
CC SabathiaChristopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsCC Sabathia dropped to 9-10 on the season after another poor start.
SAN DIEGO -- The struggles of CC Sabathia, intermittent through the first half of the season, have become a way of life in the second half.

For the fourth straight start, Sabathia got hit hard, allowing five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings in the Yankees' 7-2 loss to the Padres on Friday night. For the fourth straight start, he gave up at least eight hits -- the number was 11 in this one, matching his season high, and with three walks thrown in, he allowed 14 baserunners, another season high. And he gave up another home run, to increase his total to a career-high 24.

Over those past four starts, his ERA is north of 10 and his WHIP an unsightly 2.39.

And for the first time all season, he has admitted to an emotion his manager continues to deny: worry.

"Of course," Sabathia said when asked whether he was now worried about his season. "Who wouldn't be?"

Well, Joe Girardi for one, who continues to maintain the position that Sabathia, his erstwhile ace but now no better than the third-best starter on his staff, will come around.

“I’ve seen him do it before, is the bottom line," Girardi said. "There are a lot of times where players have to make adjustments as they go through things. There was another guy that people were really concerned about when he was struggling and he ended up with 200 hits last year. It’s all part of the game."

He was referring, of course, to Derek Jeter and his brilliant 2012 season. But the Yankees are entering the final third of their season, and it's possible Sabathia could be headed to his lowest win total since 2006, when he was 12-11 for a Cleveland Indians team that won just 78 games. Friday night's loss dropped Sabathia to 9-10 and raised his ERA to 4.78, the highest of any Yankees starter. In his 12 previous major league seasons, Sabathia has never had a losing win-loss record.

And even Girardi was forced to admit that unless Sabathia pulls it together in a hurry, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Yankees to remain in the American League wild-card race. “It obviously makes it more difficult, that’s the bottom line," Girardi said. "We need him to be CC if we’re going to make a run.”

Sabathia gave up two runs in the first inning Friday night, helped by a non-call by plate ump Mike DiMuro, who called a 2-2 pitch to Yonder Alonso that looked like a strike ball three. The next pitch was clearly low, and the bases-loaded walk forced in a run. Sabathia allowed two more runs in the fourth, one on a home run by Logan Forsythe and the other the direct result of Sabathia not covering first on Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner's two-out, one-hop smash to Lyle Overbay between first and second. The next hitter, Everth Cabrera, tripled Cashner home.

"He needs to get over there," Girardi said. "Every pitcher needs to find a way. Sometimes it’s tough. Maybe it surprised him that he hit it that way because he was trying to go in and jammed him, but you’ve got to find a way to get there."

"I just didn't get over," Sabathia said. "No excuses."

As he did after the previous three poor starts, Sabathia flogged himself before the media but couldn't really offer any concrete reason for his struggles, nor any real hope that they will end soon.

"Just not making pitches," he said.

Girardi cut off a questioner who asked whether Sabathia was healthy with an icy, "If I didn't think he was healthy, I wouldn't keep running him out there."

But if that is the truth, the reality is much worse, that at 33 years old, after 400-plus big league starts and more than 2,700 big league innings, CC Sabathia might be in a slow, steady -- and irreversible -- decline.

Asked whether he was still going out to the mound with full confidence, Sabathia was painfully candid: "It’s hard to," he admitted. "But yeah, I'm pretty confident and I feel like it's going to turn. It just hasn't yet."

And by his own admission, it has finally set in on him that maybe this season, it never will.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .286
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 61
OPSB. Gardner .780
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135