CC Sabathia, mad over 'weak' bunting, challenges Red Sox to fight
Furious that the Red Sox tried to bunt on him in the first inning on Thursday night, CC Sabathia turned and screamed toward the visitors' dugout after escaping a bases-loaded jam, using salty language that made it clear he felt the strategy was cowardly.
And suffice to say it wasn't merely heat-of-the-moment anger, because hours later, after Sabathia threw six strong innings to help lift the Yankees to a 6-1 win, it turned out he was just getting started.
Not only did the big lefty call the Red Sox "weak" for trying to beat him with the bunt, he all but dared them to let him know if they had a problem with it.
"I don't give a f--- about their reaction,'' he said, referring to his outburst toward their dugout. "I don't care what they have to say. I'm out there early every day. If they've got something to say, we can meet in center field."
Hey, maybe this will bring a little bad blood back to The Rivalry.
Of course, it's worth noting here that Sabathia is normally pretty easygoing guy, and laid-back in dealing with the media, especially after pitching as well as he did on Thursday night.
And for that matter, he has dominated the Red Sox all season, pitching to a 1.04 ERA in four starts against them, allowing only three runs in 26 innings.
Meanwhile, it's not as if bunting isn't fair game, especially against a pitcher who may be limited physically by a bad knee, as is the case with Sabathia. All the more so since the Sox have generated so little offense against him this season.
Yet it enrages Sabathia that they've tried it in his last two starts against them, in Fenway Park a couple of weeks ago and then on this night when former teammate Eduardo Nunez dropped one down on him in that first inning.
As it turned out, Sabathia made the play but rushed his throw, pulling Greg Bird off the bag for an error, and that nearly cost him as he walked the next two hitters, but he bounced back with a pair of strikeouts, and that's when he let the Sox know how he felt.
"It's just kind of weak to me,'' he said. "It shows me what they've got over there."
Sabathia was quick to say it gave him extra motivation.
"It just gets you fired up,'' he said. "Obviously you want to win every time you go out there, but it's more so because of that."
The 37-year old lefty said it's not that he thinks the Red Sox are trying to take advantage of his knee problem, for which he was on the disabled list a month ago. And he doesn't consider it a sign of disrespect. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"Scared,'' he said. "I mean, 'let's go, let's play. Swing the bat.'
Sabathia said he doesn't even think their strategy is about his knee.
"I think they just think I'm a bigger guy who can't field my position," he said, "so 'we're going to try to bunt instead of swinging the bat.
"I mean, they have a really good lineup. I want to go out and compete against them. I just feel like sometimes they don't want to."
Sabathia said he has no personal issues with any of the Sox players. He said he talks to Chris Young, another former Yankee, all the time.
So what about Nunez? Sabathia finally smiled and said, "Nunee, he apologized to me before his second at-bat."
After the game Nunez didn't deny apologizing to Sabathia but said the bunting was a strategy and said he'd do it again.
"I don't care if he was mad,'' Nunez said.
It all makes for some lively back and forth, but what matters most to the Yankees is that Sabathia used his anger to motivate himself and pitch well, without throwing purpose pitches that might have led to the team's second brawl in a week.
"Maybe if it was 10 years ago, when I was younger," he said. "But I can't afford to do that now."
In other words, if he still threw 97 mph, somebody probably would have at least been sent sprawling. Sabathia hasn't been a power pitcher for years yet he continues to pitch effectively, in part because he found the now-famous brace that takes the pain out of landing on his right knee.
All things considered, in fact, he's had a heck of a season _ now 11-5 with a 3.71 ERA. Perhaps most significant, he is 8-0 with a 1.04 ERA in starts after Yankee losses this season.
"That's who he is,'' said Joe Girardi. "That's what he's done his whole career."
As for the bunting, Sabathia said he's had a thing about that goes back to his younger days, apparently because of his size.
"I've always been like that my whole life,'' he said. "(The Red Sox) are just catching it now."
In truth his reaction seemed a bit over the top. But who in their right mind was going to argue with CC about it? Not the Red Sox, that's for sure.