Waiting for CC

Bronx, N.Y., April 13, 2019; Yankees 4, Chisox 0 — With bad news on the injury front almost daily, the Yankees stumbled out of the gate this year, were swept in Houston early this week, and fell to the lowly White Sox Friday night despite having taken a 4-1 lead in the second inning. Injuries have crippled the offense, and the underperformance by their vaunted bullpen has come as a shock. With ace Luis Severino’s absence, the kind of starting performance that could help right the ship has been sorely wanting.

Friday night’s loss was bad in many ways, and the wire-to-wire rain that ended the contest in the seventh was almost overshadowed in its awfulness by the poor Yankee pitching. Saturday afternoon’s game would prove to be a tonic that soothed a lot of ills. From the beginning, clearing skies and rising temps hinted at a good day, a promise that was delivered big time. And making his first start of the year, CC Sabathia immediately showed how a true pro pitches a game. I could (and will) go on about how the veteran southpaw retired 15 of 16 through five frames. He allowed one hit, struck out three, walked none, and left the game having thrown an even 60 pitches, 40 strikes and 20 balls. Most impressive, though, was how he did it. Three of his half innings took five minutes, the other two six apiece. All of this took place under ever-brightening skies, warming into the mid-seventies, a perfect baseball day.

Unfortunately, ex-Yank Ivan Nova was pitching almost as effectively, and taking just a shade longer to do it. A Brett Gardner infield single and one-out DJ LeMahieu eight-pitch walk extended him to 27 pitches in the first. But by the time CC left after five, Nova had allowed just two more singles, one of them removed on a double play grounder. But his luck ran out on hit No. four, a Gleyber Torres leadoff single in the seventh. Nova was lifted for southpaw Jace Fry, and lefty-hitting Yolmer Sanchez, who had hit for Jose Rondon once CC left, mishandled Greg Bird’s grounder to second. Clint Frazier’s bases-loading single off righty Ryan Burr set it up and Luke Voit, pinch hitting for Mike Tauchman, singled past the drawn-in infield, 1-0 Yanks. Kyle Higashioka brought in a second run with a sac fly to deep right, and then Tyler Wade and Aaron Boone brought a little fun into the action.

Frazier had advanced to third on the sac fly, so the Chicago infield was playing for the double play, but all 40,000 in attendance were taken by surprise when Wade squared on a 1-1 pitch and successfully squeeze bunted Clint home, for a 3-0 lead. The extra runs would prove unnecessesary, as would Aaron Judge’s home run in the eighth. This was because on this day not only did Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman deliver the shutdown relief expected of them, they retired six straight with a strike out apiece. Also, starter Domingo German, pressed into action with the pen depleted during four straight losses, pitched the sixth and seventh brilliantly, retiring six of seven around a Wade error. He struck out four, and earned his third win for his trouble.

The extra runs also weren’t needed because the defense showed up this day, warming to the sun and the enthusiastic though mellow crowd, comforted as we were in knowing we were watching a tight game on a day meant for baseball. Wade made a grabbing dive on a Wellington Castillo base-hit bid to start the third, pegging him out at first just before Rondon stroked the lone Chicago hit. And one out later, Gardner covered seeming acres to snatch Adam Engel’s sinking floater to short center. An inning later, the much put-upon Bird speared Yonder Alonso’s tracer down the right-field line, and beat him to the bag. And he saved Torres from an error with a fine stretch to nab Sanchez on a grounder to short in the seventh.

So why did German and the pen do the job so well today? Why did the series of key at bats in the seventh manage just enough to get the job done? Why did the “D,” not off to a particularly strong start this year, come through? Samuel Beckett, absurdist playwright, novelist, poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, was born on this day in 1906. He is perhaps best known for his play, “Waiting for Godot.” The depleted Yankees did not display a lot of offensive prowess in this one. But why did they pitch well, catch and throw the ball well, and come up with timely at bats with the game on the line? I guess you could say they were,

Waiting for CC