Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning: CC Gets Hot, Heated

Cinco Puntos De Los Yanquis

1. CC is All the Rage

I know this comparison has been done to death, but Sabathia is so much like a bear that it's practically breathtaking. Watching him walk out of the bullpen before the top of 1st might have been the best part of the whole evening- his face looked pained, sweat was rolling down his brow, and his whole body- especially his hips- rolled as he lumbered through the outfield. Unlike most heavyset human beings, there's something powerful and fearsome about his fat. I'd compare him to James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, but that was a more tightly-wound energy, whereas CC is loose and slow. He never explodes; his muscle is deceptive. His wind-up and delivery is a slow unleashing of stored strength. The ball zips out in the mid-to-high-90s, and half of you wonders how it could be possible, while the other half understands perfectly. The torque is generated somewhere internally, and has no outward manifestation. That's what separates him from other pitchers; they're tigers, with snarling mouths and quick, vicious movements. CC is a bear. Stillness is his game.

He wasn't particuarly sharp last night, which makes it all the more remarkable that he went 8 innings, threw 106 pitches, and only gave up 1 run. At a certain point in the 4th inning, he was already above 60 pitches, and Guthrie, the Orioles starter, seemed to be the better man. He was cruising, while CC kept laboring and escaping. Fast forward to the 8th: Guthrie had given up 4 runs and thrown 116 pitches in 7 innings, while CC made it an inning longer in just 106. That's where stamina comes in. All that strength and power lets him hit his stride just when others have begun to fade. He's indomitable. He can throw 130 pitches if the need arises. And he gets better with every pitch, with every degree, with every drop of sweat.

Ursa. Major.

2. CC's Rage

In the 7th, out of nowhere, CC stepped off the back of the mound and walked in a circle. The entire infield rushed in, and Girardi came practically sprinting from the dugout. At the game, we didn't know what was going on. Since we were sitting on the first base side, we also didn't know that the ump's strike zone had been horrible and inconsistent all game (gameday's pitch tracker has him mis-calling 20 pitches). So CC threw a strike, the ump called it a strike, and it set the big man off because similar pitches had been called balls all game long.

Though he didn't say anything, the point of his amble around the mound was crystal clear. The ump, Bill Hohn, came out and yelled at him. Girardi got awkwardly close to try to cool him down. And CC, according to fans watching on tv, said something like "I didn't say fucking nothing." You can read more about the near-incident here.

"I didn't say anything. I said absolutely nothing and he came out from behind the plate . . . he was yelling at me," said Sabathia. "A couple years ago, I might have lost it a little more than I did but me getting older and being able to control my emotions helped."

You have to think that a different player might have been tossed, and that maybe the implied power in CC, the idea of the blow-up stewing inside, kept Hohn from issuing the jerked thumb. Not that Sabathia scared him- just that it seemed wiser to keep that blood unstirred, to settle for a cold war.

3. Excellence = Yankee Starting Pitching - Javier Vazquez

We now have four pitchers with 3 wins and an ERA south of 3.0. That's 4 guys in the American League top 12. That's 13 pitcher wins in 20 starts. That's 1 pitcher loss in 20 starts. That's a 16-4 overall record.

4. Oh, Robbie.

0-4 on 10 pitches. This is what happens when a young guy with so much talent goes cold. Two days ago, he got behind in the count, reached for a pitch out of the strike zone, and roped it into the right field seats. That's what he's capable of. He can make up for a lack of discipline, a lack of what I'll call 'batting acumen,' with raw ability. He can swing at a shitty pitch in a bad count and hit a three-run home run. But he can also go 0-4, all of them lazy flies, on 10 pitches. He can reel off a 3-16 streak that has nothing to do with missing the ball, and everything to do with swinging at the wrong times. His average can drop 30 points before you blink. He can lose the top spot in AL batting in a flash.

5. I Want Power

A-Rod and Teixeira need to start hitting home runs. 4 combined round trippers in 187 at-bats ain't gonna cut it. It'd be great if they could hit for average, too (.258 and .181 brings on the dry heaves), but at the very least we need some old school shots. It'd be nice if the great pitching could last forever, but I'm not betting the farm.

The Gist: A solid opening win bodes well for the next two days, where favorable match-ups make the sweep at least semi-likely. At the moment, we're red hot and only 1 game back of the redder and hotter Rays. Another series at Fenway this weekend gives us a chance to dig Boston's early hole a bit deeper.

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