|Indians ace C.C. Sabathia struggles with control in ALCS opener|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 13 October 2007 01:21|
He just hopes it comes next week, not next year.
If the Cleveland Indians don't win again after losing the opener of the AL championship series to the Boston Red Sox 10-3 on Friday night, the big lefty may have thrown his last pitch - hit hard for a two-run single - of the 2007 season.
The 19-game winner and Cy Young Award candidate was rocked for eight runs on seven hits in 4 1-3 innings by a patient offense that didn't go fishing for pitches off the plate. That's one reason Sabathia walked five batters.
``He's strong mentally,'' Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis said. ``I think he will handle it as well as anyone can and, you know what? I fully expect him to go out and have a good outing his next outing, whenever that is.''
Manager Eric Wedge chose not to use Sabathia on three days' rest on Monday night when the Indians wrapped up the ALDS 3-1 over the New York Yankees with a 6-4 win behind starter Paul Byrd.
If Wedge sticks with that plan, Jake Westbrook and Byrd will pitch Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-seven ALCS in Cleveland after Fausto Carmona faces Curt Schilling in the second game Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Sabathia was upset that he didn't pitch more aggressively and challenge hitters with his fastball, especially on a night when he struggled with off-speed pitches.
He and Josh Beckett each allowed a run in the first inning, but both retired the side in the second and it appeared they were settling down.
``He did. I didn't,'' Sabathia said. ``I felt good that second inning (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.''
When he was lifted with the Indians trailing 7-1, he walked calmly to the dugout. Once there, he leaned forward with his hands clasped in front of him and pursed his lips with a faraway look in his eyes.
``I was just really upset with myself, not being my usual, aggressive, coming-after-guys self,'' Sabathia said. ``I guess you can say that's wasted opportunity.''
Sabathia allowed his most runs since he gave up eight on July 21, 2006. It was his second-shortest outing in 35 starts this season.
A few years ago, the 27-year-old 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.
``When he was younger, things kind of carried at times from one start to the next,'' Willis said.
The Indians don't expect that to happen now, but the Red Sox hitters are so selective that Sabathia's results may not be any better the next time.
``You know they're going to make you come in, they're going to make you work for it,'' 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.''
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.''
Sabathia's worst inning was the third, when the Red Sox batted around and scored four times for a 5-1 lead. Manny Ramirez walked with the bases loaded, Mike Lowell doubled in two runs and Jason Varitek drove in another with a groundout.
His last inning was the fifth when David Ortiz walked, Ramirez singled and Lowell walked, loading the bases. Then Bobby Kielty singled in two runs, ending Sabathia's night.
``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.''
He made plenty.
``Sometimes (with) C.C., his heart gets in the way. He tries to do a little bit too much,'' Wedge said. ``He just doesn't need to try to do any more than what he normally does, because what he is, it's pretty good.''