|Indians ace C.C. Sabathia struggles with control in ALCS opener|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 October 2007 18:40|
That solitary stroll was a rare moment of control for the Indians' once-fiery ace.
Looking nothing like the Cy Young Award contender who won 19 games this season, Sabathia walked five while allowing eight runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings Friday night. The Indians never recovered and the Red Sox rolled to a 10-3 win in the opener of the AL championship series.
Sabathia did strike out the side in the second inning. But those were his only strikeouts.
``I felt good that second inning,'' he said, but ``I didn't really stick with our plan and kind of got away from that and didn't really challenge guys. I need to be more aggressive next time, go out and throw my fastball in the zone.''
Fausto Carmona, another Cy Young Award hopeful, tries to even it Saturday night for the Indians against Curt Schilling.
Round 1, though, went to Josh Beckett over Sabathia.
``When you're talking about facing a team like Boston, you know they're going to make you come in, they're going to make you work for it,'' Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. ``They're not going to chase. You've got to prove that you can be in the zone before they even think about expanding a little bit.''
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first on Travis Hafner's homer off Beckett, another favorite for the AL Cy Young Award. Sabathia squandered it after facing just four batters - and nearly taking a liner to his head.
Dustin Pedroia hit that ball and Sabathia got his glove up just in time to spear it for the first out. But then he gave up singles by Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, tying the game.
``I usually go out and pitch and have fun and enjoy it,'' Sabathia said. ``I was going out today and trying to not make mistakes.''
Sabathia allowed his most runs since he gave up eight on July 21, 2006. If he was coming unglued, though, he didn't show it.
Years ago, Sabathia was demonstrative on the field. In the clubhouse after a tough loss, he once punched a pillar near his locker, leaving a hole in it.
Those days seem to be gone now. He keeps his emotions in check.
``When he was younger, things kind of carried at times from one start to the next,'' Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis said. ``After the All-Star break he kind of got off his schedule a little bit and he struggled a couple of games after that, and once he got back into his routine he turned it around and I fully expect that would be the case now.''
In the opener of the AL division series, Sabathia walked six Yankees in five innings - the same number of walks he issued in all of September. The Indians still won 12-3.
``He was much more under control tonight,'' Willis said. ``The New York game he was definitely overthrowing. When he missed, he missed badly. Tonight, I don't think he missed badly that often but he didn't do a good enough job being aggressive early in the counts to get himself in position to use all his pitches.''
Maybe Sabathia had too much rest by Friday. Maybe the skills that produced a 19-7 record and 3.21 ERA had become stale.
Sabathia has pitched more than 250 innings this year, including the playoffs, but Wedge doesn't think the big lefty is getting tired.
``He's really strong. I don't think fatigue is a factor. I think sometimes C.C., his heart gets in the way. He tries to do a little bit too much. It's one of the many reasons he is such a great pitcher and a great teammate,'' Wedge said. ``But one thing about C.C., and it's easier said than done, but he just doesn't need to try to do any more than what he normally does, because what he is, it's pretty good. It's one of the best in the game. But today he just wasn't able to put it all together.''
Sabathia's worst inning was the third, when the Red Sox batted around and scored four times for a 5-1 lead. Ramirez walked with the bases loaded, Mike Lowell doubled in two runs and Jason Varitek drove in another with a groundout.
``You don't get to see C.C. being wild like that too much, so you've got to take advantage of it,'' Ortiz said. ``When he's in the strike zone, when he's making pitches the way he normally does, he's a tough guy to hit.''
There were signs of hope for Sabathia when he breezed through the fourth. They ended - and so did his night - when he put the first four batters on base in the fifth.
Ortiz walked, Ramirez singled and Lowell walked, loading the bases. Then Bobby Kielty singled in two runs and brought Wedge out of the Cleveland dugout.
Moments later, Sabathia - with no outbursts but five walks - was headed there himself.