CC Sabathia’s struggles at Tropicana Field continue
Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field may be a park that favors pitchers, but you’ll have a hard time convincing CC Sabathia of that. The Yankees’ ace was tagged for a season-high seven runs in seven innings by the Rays on Sunday, and for the 12th time in his last 14 starts there — a streak dating back to 2004, when he was with the Indians — his team lost, this time by a score of 8-3.
Sabathia fell behind early; after a 1-2-3 first inning, he allowed two runs in the bottom of the second, with a pair of infield grounders that the Yankees’ defense couldn’t convert into outs looming large. He surrendered a two-run homer to Sean Rodriguez in the third inning, and then an RBI double to Yunel Escobar and a two-run homer to James Loney in the sixth inning. Virtually all of the damage was done by hitters outside the top four spots in the Rays lineup; Rodriguez (fifth), Escobar (sixth), Loney (seventh), Jose Lobaton (eighth) and Sam Fuld (ninth) accounted for five of the seven hits he allowed, as well as six of the runs scored and all seven RBI on his watch. The Yankees were down 7-0 when he departed, and didn’t score until putting up three runs against Alex Cobb and the Rays’ bullpen in the ninth inning.
Sabathia did have his best average velocity of the season on both his four-seamer (91.9 MPH) and his sinker (90.7 MPH) according to BrooksBaseball.net, and he threw his fastest pitch of the season at 94.2 MPH. Even so, both were still well below last year’s averages (93.0 and 92.5, respectively), and both homers came on fastballs—Rodriguez’s on a 92.0 MPH four-seamer, Loney’s on a 90.0 MPH sinker.
The Yankees have won just once in Sabathia’s 10 starts at the Trop, back on Apr. 10, 2010, when he threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball before yielding a single to Kelly Shoppach. The Yanks scored 10 runs in that game, but they have scored just 14 for the big man in their seven starts since. Over a three-start span in 2010-2011, they scored a grand total of one run for him; an eight-inning, two-hit shutout effort on Sept. 13, 2010 went for naught during that stretch.
Lately, however, he’s pitched badly under the dome, allowing eight homers and 20 runs in 27 innings there in 2012-2013. In his previous start there this year, he yielded three homers and five runs in seven innings on Apr. 22. Here’s his game log at the Trop:
In terms of Game Score, his 39 from Sunday was his third-worst start there, better than only a pair of abbreviated 2009 outings. His 4.39 ERA and 1.3 homers per nine there are both the highest of any ballpark where he has thrown 100 innings (he has 108 2/3 now). Of parks where he has at least 50 innings, the Oakland Coliseum (5.02 ERA in 80 2/3 innings) and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (4.65 ERA in 50 1/3 innings) are the only ones where he’s gotten worse results.
The outing inflated Sabathia’s ERA for the year to 3.96, higher than he’s finished with in any season since 2005. While his strikeout and walk rates (7.7 and 2.1 per nine) are in line with his career marks, his 1.4 homers per nine is 68 percent above his career mark of 0.8 per nine. Despite his less than stellar season to date, the Yankees are tied for first in the AL East at this writing, with a 30-19 record.