By Barry Millman
If you're looking for another "Poor CC Deserved Better" sob story about last night's 2-1 loss against the Tigers, move along and take your pick from the dozens that were posted within minutes of that game's conclusion.
A last place team still struggling to find itself and making a game of it against the best team in baseball is a good enough narrative for me. There was much to like in this game to celebrate. So let's not get sidetracked by a phony soap opera script, shall we?
First, the reality check: Alfredo Simon outpitched CC and, with the exception of his one mistake pitch to Tex, wasn't hit anywhere near as hard as CC. So if anyone deserved to win it was Simon. And if it hadn't been for the Flying Wallenda Brothers, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, the Tigers likely would've scored something closer to the 5.68 ERA CC carried into the game.
The Yankees offense did manage to get just as many hits off Simon -- who came into the game carrying a 2.03 ERA -- and if not for some web gems by his defenders the game could've easily gone the other way, so it's tough to make a case against the offense in this one. Bottom line: CC was getting hit hard all night and the singles the two runs scored on were hard hit. If those ball weren't hit hard, those runs wouldn't have scored. Also, let it not be forgotten the big man's given back his share of fat leads in recent years and he bloody well can pull on his big boy pants and wear a one-run loss without losing any face. So stow the kleenex and let's talk about what really mattered in the game.
The best news of the night was if you wanted a legitimate yardstick to measure how far the team has come since that horrific first week when they looked like a bunch of strangers pulled from the bleachers to play together for the first time and you weren't sure the Rays sweep qualified, this was your game. And they've come come quite a distance,
CC Sabathia threw the first complete game by a Yankee pitcher this year in the loss, which means when he says he's throwing pain free he might actually mean it now. He commanded his changeup and was able to induce three double play groundballs with it; two by Miguel Cabrera. Brian McCann said the key was he was finally duplicating the same arm slot and release he uses for his fastball and was able to locate it. (Good thing.)
The defense once again didn't commit an error after leading the league with 11 in the first 10 days of the season and played so well at times they were coming out of their shoes; defying gravity and laws of physics in the outfield, turning three double plays in the infield and showing range this team hasn't seen in some time. (Very good thing.)
Didi Gregorious cracked the Mendoza line, If you think that doesn't matter, fully one third of the starting lineup is still hitting below it: Tex (.190), Beltran (.171) and Drew (.158). (Very very good.)
A pitching duel that saw both lineups get 7 hits ended with the more potent Tigers scoring just twice on two RBI singles. (CC keeping it in the yard is a very, very, very good thing.)
The Yankees scored once on Mark Teixeira's fourth homer of the year, tying him with Alex Rodriguez for the team lead. (Not enough space here for all the verys required to describe how good it is for a healthy Tex to be hitting homers this early.)
A tough loss? Sure it was. But discovering the defense may finally be getting as good as advertised, and that the rotation's most inconsistent pitcher the last two seasons and designated innings-eater for this season may actually be getting the hang of the pitch that will allow him to eat innings? I'll take that swap.
You can email Barry Millman at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.