NEW YORK — In his pretty epic postgame rant, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia swore, challenged the Boston Red Sox, and said he was willing to meet any of them in center field before any game, any time.
Sabathia has never liked it when major league hitters try to bunt on him. He didn’t like it when he was an up-and-coming youngster with the Cleveland Indians. He doesn’t like it now, though it has nothing to do with his bum knee or being an “old man,” to use his term.
And, if the Red Sox don’t care for it, Sabathia is willing to look any of them square in the eye.
“I don’t give a f— about their reaction,” said Sabathia, who quickly apologized for swearing, but not for the sentiment. “I don’t really care what they have to say. I’m out there early every day. If they have something to say, we can meet in center field.”
If Thursday’s 6-2 win over Boston was Sabathia’s final start as a Yankee against the Red Sox, then he went out in style. Eduardo Nunez got under his skin in the first by bunting. Everyone loves the former Yankee known as “Nuney,” even Sabathia. Still, Sabathia thought it was “weak” not to just take cuts instead of bunting and running.
Sabathia fielded Nunez’s bunt cleanly, but his throw to first was off, resulting in an error. Sabathia would load the bases before escaping the inning.
He roared at the Red Sox, calling them all sorts of expletive-filled names. By the time Nunez returned to the plate, he was telling Sabathia, “My bad,” though Nunez said he would do it again.
It is sort of hard to make sense of either side of the argument.
But who cares? It is fun Yanks-Red Sox stuff.
Sabathia would go on to dominate the Red Sox, pitching big time in another big game. Sabathia might not make the Hall of Fame, but he has earned quite a legacy — especially in games with high stakes.
The Yankees are nearly in must-win situations this weekend to have a real chance of catching Boston in the American League East. The victory moves them 4½ games back in the division with each team having less than 30 games remaining and only three more against each other — all this weekend.
Sabathia is 11-5 with a 3.71 ERA this season, but he has done a large part of his damage against the Red Sox. He is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA against Boston.
Not only has Sabathia stepped up when the Yankees are facing their biggest rivals, but also as a stopper. Sabathia is now 8-0 with a 1.29 ERA after Yankee losses.
Manager Joe Girardi said he doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the 37-year-old Sabathia has been so good after the Yankees have been bad.
“I think it is who he is,” Girardi said. “It is what has made him so great for so long. It is a guy you have been able to count on most of his career after tough losses.”
Sabathia’s rebirth started under unique circumstances. In 2015, he found success combating knee surgery with a brace that allowed him to pitch well that September. However, by the end of the month, he admitted to a dependency on alcohol and entered rehab.
This made him a question mark going into 2016. However, he pitched well that season, with an ERA under 4.00 for the first time since 2012, when he was a 32-year-old All-Star.
Now, at age 37, he is still roaring. He has not been the ace with the 95 mph fastball for some time, but he has transformed into a grinder, working out of the bases-loaded jams like he did in the first inning by striking out Rafael Devers.
Sabathia has that competitive fire, like Paul O’Neill did during those championship years. Sabathia will show outward emotion, like he did at the end of the fifth when catcher Gary Sanchez caught a runner trying to steal. Sabathia pointed at him, yelling, this time with encouragement.
While the Yankees won’t offer Sabathia the $25 million he is being paid this season, it might not be his last start in the Bronx against Boston. The Yankees will have to seriously contemplate giving Sabathia a one-year deal to return in 2018.
But if this is how Sabathia goes out as a Yankee against the Red Sox, it seems pretty fitting. He stomped on them while bringing a little more fire to the rivalry.
Though his logic is not perfectly sound — why shouldn’t the Red Sox bunt on him and his bad knee? — his passion is in tune.
“It is kind of weak to me,” Sabathia said of the Boston bunters. “It is what it is. It just shows what they got over there.”
Sabathia has shown what he has got inside of him. He came up with a big arm, but his heart and his mind should not be underestimated.
“I’m an old man so they should go out and want to kick my butt,” Sabathia said. “I just feel like they tried to take the weak road.”
Sabathia wasn’t doing a sack dance, knowing the Red Sox won’t have another shot at him. If it were up to him, he would want the ball again on Friday.