NEW YORK -- The stats geeks will win.
CC Sabathia lost the American League Cy Young award on Thursday night. In the biggest game of the year, Sabathia, the New York Yankees' rock-solid ace, was at his worst, giving up seven earned runs in the Yankees' 10-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium.
It was a big game not just for Sabathia, but for the Yankees. Instead of having a two-and-a-half-game lead on the second-place Rays, the Yankees now have a slim half-game advantage in the AL East with just nine games to go.
Matched up against Rays ace left-hander David Price, Sabathia could have made it nearly impossible for the guys who value stats over wins to deny him the league's best pitcher award.
Sabathia, however, picked the wrong time to be flat-out awful. It was his worst outing since he gave up six earned runs in six innings of work versus the Tigers in Detroit on May 13. In fact, this outing was the most earned runs he has allowed as a Yankee and the most since 2008.
"I'm definitely disappointed," said Sabathia, who gave up 10 hits in just 5 1/3 innings. "It was a big game. We're trying to win this division. That's our main goal.
"And not being able to come through tonight, I feel bad. These guys put some good at-bats against Price, scored some runs. He's been good all year. I wasn't able to come through. I feel bad. I feel like I let these guys down."
By turning in a stinker, Sabathia (20-7) saw his ERA balloon to 3.26 from 3.05. Hence you can almost take it to the bank that Seattle's Felix Hernandez will win the Cy Young even though he has a 12-12 record.
Over the past few weeks, some potential voters have been making a statistical case for King Felix, who leads the AL with a stingy 2.31 ERA. He also has the most innings pitched and the most strikeouts. He hasn't won more often because his team has a woeful offense, one of the worst in a long time.
Still, Sabathia, who entered the game as the AL's only 20-game winner, had to be the favorite. Those other stats are fine, but they should never be more important than winning.
It would be one thing if Sabathia had 20 wins and a 5-plus ERA. By any standards, that's not a good ERA, and it would signal to you that that he's won games despite mediocre pitching. But that's not the case.
Plus, Sabathia is pitching in the toughest division in baseball with the Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays. He's also on the biggest stage in the game. And let's not forget that Sabathia has pitched in games that matter. Hernandez hasn't pitching in a pressure-packed contest since maybe Opening Day.
That stuff should be factored in.
And for all those geeks who believe Sabathia's success is based on run support by the mighty Yankees' lineup, they couldn't be more wrong. If that were the case, A.J. Burnett would have 20 wins, too. But he hasn't pitched well enough to win.
Many were hoping we were going to see another pitching duel between Sabathia and Price on Thursday night, like the one we saw on Sept. 13, when both pitched eight scoreless innings. Nope. Both got touched up early in this one. "He wasn't as sharp tonight, there's no question about that," Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Sabathia.
But it appeared as though Sabathia was well on his way to his 21st victory. He was spotted a 2-0 lead on Marcus Thames' two-run homer in the second inning. The Yankees were up 3-1 when the wheels came off for Sabathia in the Rays' seven-run sixth inning. "I didn't make pitches,'' said Sabathia, who gave up three hits to the first four batters in the inning. "I felt pretty good, but they put some tough at-bats against me. It was one of those nights."
If Sabathia, indeed, lost the Cy Young on this night, Price should become the front runner. He has 18 victories, and he won the big game in a big spot on the biggest stage.
That's what Cy Young winners do.
Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.