By Barry Millman
A two-run Yankee lead in the first inning and two more runs in the sixth might normally be enough to give them a shot at a win.
But baseball, as much as any sport, is about momentum; and in between the first and sixth, CC Sabathia, the American League's favorite batting practice pitcher, provided the Orioles five innings of excellent BP, serving up eight hits including two two-run home runs; forcing manager Joe Girardi once again to go to his depleted bullpen early and the team down 4-2. And at that point, it was as good as over.
Because the Yankees came back to score two in the top of the 6th after he was out of the game, Sabathia was spared the loss on his record. But make no mistake. This loss was all his.
Sure, there were poor defensive plays and the long-ball-reliant offense could've scored more runs. And you can certainly point a finger at former Lowe's refrigerator mover Chris Martin and newly acquired David Carpenter-esque Dodgers castoff Sergio Santos who added three and two more runs, respectively, to the O's final nine-run total.
But bringing them into the game wouldn't have been necessary if Sabathia had performed his job -- his only excuse at this point in his nosediving career for being in the rotation other than justifying his misbegotten contract extension -- and that is to eat innings and keep the other team from hitting the ball hard and scoring runs.
Sabathia is now tied for the league lead in home runs allowed at 14; carries the second worst opponent batting average at .309; third worst opponent OPS at .833; and seventh worst ERA at 5.38 among all qualified American League starting pitchers.
By allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings, he put up precisely the same line in this game as O's starting pitcher Bud Norris -- who carries an ERA of 8.29 but somehow managed to recover from his two-run first inning to retire 13 of the next 14 Yankee hitters he faced before allowing a leadoff single in the sixth and then Alex Rodriguez's history-making (aren't they all now?) 666th home run, giving him his 2,000th and 2,001st RBI, joining Hank Aaron as the only players to reach that lofty milestone and putting him just five hits away from the only slightly less exclusive 3,000-hits club.
At least when a horrible pitcher like Bud Norris finally imploded, he had a good excuse.
Sabathia, unfortunately, was just being Sabathia -- the worst starting pitcher in the American League.
You can email Barry Millman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.