Commentary

Beantown turnaround hinges on CC

Yanks, 1-8 this year versus Red Sox, need Sabathia to stop struggling against Boston

Updated: August 5, 2011, 10:27 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- The silent truth about the way the Yankees set up their rotation is that it somehow always works out that CC Sabathia pitches against Boston.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't usually, if ever, give this as a reason for pushing a guy back a day here or skipping someone there, but that is how it always magically leaps out of his binder.

Sabathia pitches against the Red Sox. It is not a coincidence.

So the Yankees have lost eight of nine to the Red Sox, which is alarming for one particular reason.

[+] EnlargeCC Sabathia
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesCC Sabathia has to start beating Boston for the Bombers to have a realistic shot at a pennant.

It is not that they have lost but how they have lost -- and who has lost.

Sabathia has led the charge -- or, more accurately, the retreat. He is 0-3 against Boston this season with a fat 6.16 ERA.

Against everyone else, Sabathia is 16-2 with a 2.12 ERA.

Bartolo Colon, who will start on Friday, has lost twice against the Red Sox. Freddy Garcia, who will take the ball on Sunday night, also has two losses. In the nine games, New York starters have an ERA of 8.18 versus the Red Sox.

In all three tries, Sabathia has failed to match up with Boston's No. 1 starter, Josh Beckett. On Saturday, Sabathia will receive a reprieve, facing John Lackey.

In Sabathia's first Fenway start on April 10, a 54-degree night, he wasn't terrible. He surrendered four runs, although just one was earned. Still, in 5 2/3 innings, he gave up nine hits. Meanwhile, Beckett threw a masterful eight shutout innings.

A little more than a month later, Sabathia received a second shot at Beckett in the Bronx. Beckett added six scoreless innings, while Sabathia faded in the seventh, allowing six runs (all earned) in 6 2/3 innings.

Then in June, Beckett finally gave up a couple of runs. but that was it in seven innings. The Red Sox, meanwhile, put up another six-spot on Sabathia, chasing him after 6 2/3 innings.

Since that loss, though, Sabathia has been an out-of-this-world starter, going 9-1 with a 1.76 ERA. So he is probably due for a win in Boston on Saturday.

In 2009, Sabathia dominated the Red Sox, going 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in four starts. In 2010, he was not as great but good enough. He didn't lose any of his four starts, finishing 1-0 with a 3.96 ERA against Boston.

The Yankees' eight losses in nine games this season (including all six in the Bronx) are a big deal in some respects, but we all know how 2009 started against Boston (the Yankees lost the first eight) and how it ended (they won nine of the last 10 and the World Series).

If Beckett continues to neutralize Sabathia, the Yankees would have trouble winning an ALCS. Colon is the ultimate Game 2 wild card, and in fairness, he has a 2.61 ERA against Boston this season in 10 1/3 innings. Garcia, though, is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA.

The Red Sox are the type of team that makes you think Garcia's finesse style won't work well in the playoffs. Boston is not only potent but also patient. The Red Sox don't make outs for Garcia and eventually have torn down his guile.

The Red Sox have beaten the Yankees every which way. That happens when the score is eight games to one.

They have even owned Sabathia. He is the Yankees' heavyweight champion, and it is crazy to bet against him.

But come October, it is hard to imagine the Yankees reversing Boston's 2011 curse on them if Sabathia can't win.

ESPN Researcher Katie Sharp contributed to this story.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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