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."

Key moments in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry
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Key moments in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry
BOSTON - JULY 24: Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek trade blows in the 3rd inning that precipitated a bench clearing brawl between the two teams. Both players were ejected from the game. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Babe Ruth wearing the uniform of the Boston Red Sox, the team he played with from 1915 until he joined the Yankees in 1920. (Photo via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - OCTOBER 19: Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees heads into first base as Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo tries to tag him, during the eighth inning of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Umpires ruled that Rodriguez was out because he batted the ball away from Arroyo. Doug Mienkiewicz of the Sox is at right. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - OCTOBER 16: As the fans go wild, Aaron Boone heads for home as Tim Wakefield heads for the off season in the background. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 11: Boston Red Sox' pitcher Pedro Martinez (left) throws 72-year-old New York Yankees' bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground in a fourth-inning fracas at Fenway Park during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. Martinez had hit the Yankees' Karim Garcia with a pitch at the top of the inning; when Yanks' pitcher Roger Clemens then nearly grazed the Sox' Manny Ramirez, a bench-clearing brawl ensued. Zimmer, who lunged at Martinez during the dustup, was taken to the hospital for observation, then released. The Yanks won, 4-3. (Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Boston: Boxing Or Wrestling? Yankee's Gene Michael (L) and Bosox catcher Carlton Fisk (top), battle on the mound as Yanks' Thurman Munson, (LL), is held down by (L to R), Boston's Doug Griffin, Carl Yastrzemski, and John Curtis during 9th inning melee at Fenway Park. Munson and Fisk were both thrown out of the game which Boston won 3-2.
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 21: It's bedlam - but a happy kind - as Boston Red Sox players explode with joy after their 10-3 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. In an astounding comeback, the Bosox became the first team in baseball history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. Now, they go on to the World Series. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Apr 11, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin (26) starts a scrum with Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly (56) during the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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