TORONTO -- The New York Yankees will bring a win, in a game and in a series, back to the Bronx for Monday’s home opener, a much-needed 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays that evened their first road trip of the year at an acceptable 3-3.
But they will also be bringing home some lingering questions about CC Sabathia, their erstwhile ace, who once again got hit hard, early and late, and might have been lucky to escape with a victory, his first of the season.
In between Melky Cabrera’s leadoff home run and a fly out by Brett Lawrie that ended Sabathia’s day after six innings, there were some good stretches where his slider confounded the Blue Jays. At one point, he retired nine in a row, four on strikes.
But there was also that disturbingly leisurely fastball -- he was clocked at 91 once in the game -- and that stretch in the sixth when, after getting two out, CC simply could not get the third before the Jays had strung together four hits to make a 6-1 game a 6-4 game. He has now allowed three home runs in his first 12 innings of work.
Sabathia’s final line -- 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 6 Ks -- was better than his line in Houston on Opening Night, but still not what you want to see from a pitcher you are depending upon, as well as one who is signed for two more seasons plus an option beyond this one, at $25 million per year.
After David Robertson put two men on base in a sweaty-palms ninth-inning, only to escape with his third save by getting Cabrera to line out hard to right, the Yankees can be happy with their victory.
And at the same time, concerned about the pitcher they used to consider their ace.
No. 2 is now No. 8: Derek Jeter left Hall of Famer Paul Molitor behind with a two-hit day, moving into sole possession of eighth place on baseball’s all-time hit list. Jeter tied Molitor with a third-inning single on a typical Jeter hit, an inside-out swing resulting in a line drive to right. It was Jeter’s first hit since the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Astros in Houston, and raised his early-season batting average, which had dipped to .167, to .231. An inning later, Jeter pulled ahead with a ground ball single down the first base line for career hit No. 3,320. Next on the hit list: Carl Yastrzemski, who is 99 hits ahead at 3,419.
Brett Bomber: After going 48 innings without a home run to start the season, the Yankees got their first of 2014 in the fourth inning, courtesy of Brett Gardner, perhaps the least likely of their regulars to hit one. Gardner’s was a two-run shot over the right-field wall and came on a 3-2 pitch from Drew Hutchison, giving the Yankees a 6-1 lead. Gardner’s last home run had come on August 11 of last season.
Sol Train: Yangervis Solarte continued his torrid hitting with a ground-rule double that bounced over the right-field wall in the fourth, scoring Brian Roberts (walk,stolen base), to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
Two-out mayhem: The Blue Jays strung together four two-out hits off Sabathia in the sixth to turn a 6-1 laugher into a 6-4 nail-biter. Singles by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, an RBI double by Dioner Navarro and a two-run single by Erik Kratz closed the gap in a hurry.
Three-peat: Melky Cabrera hit his third home run in three games against his former team, belting Sabathia’s second pitch of the game, an 84-MPH slider, over the left-field fence to cut the Yankees' lead to 3-1. It was also the third home run allowed by Sabathia this season; the Astros belted two off him on Opening Day.
About time: A day after they lost a game largely because they couldn’t get a timely hit -- 1-for-10 w/RISP in Saturday’s 4-0 loss) -- the Yankees got a very timely hit from Kelly Johnson, who smoked a liner over Cabrera’s head in center for a 2-run double that gave the Yankees a 3-0 first-inning lead. In fact, it was their only hit of the inning; Jays starter Hutchison walked two and hit another to cause his own problems, and the first run scored on a groundout by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Hard road to glory: Alfonso Soriano, mired in a horrendous slump (0-for-16) to start the season, reached base for the first time, painfully, when he was plunked in the back by a Hutchison fastball. But the sting was eased when he wound up scoring on Johnson’s double. Soriano finally got off the schneid with fifth-inning single that snapped an 0-for-17 hitless streak.
The Daily Review: John Gibbons challenged Ichiro Suzuki’s sixth-inning stolen base, which was frivolous in itself, because it was obvious from all the way up in the pressbox that he was safe. But even worse was how long it took to confirm the obvious: 2:40, the longest delay of any review this weekend.
Open for business: The Yankees fly home tonight, followed by their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium tomorrow, featuring ceremonial first pitches thrown out by Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, to be caught by Jeter and Jorge Posada. Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 3.00) faces RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (0-1,6.00), first pitch scheduled for 1:08 p.m.