The Boston Red Sox tested CC Sabathia early in his latest return from a knee injury, and the New York Yankees pitcher responded to the challenge — perhaps fueled by a little anger.
Sabathia dazzled in the Yankees’ lone win of the weekend series — outdueling Chris Sale in the process — even though the Red Sox made him prove he was healthy and mobile enough to field his position.
Red Sox leadoff hitter Eduardo Nunez tried to sneak a bunt by Sabathia, but his attempt went foul and he ultimately struck out looking. Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi then tried the same tactic and kept it between the lines, but he did so to the third-base side, which is the direction in which Sabathia finishes his pitch. Sabathia easily fielded the bunt attempt and fired a dart to first.
Sabathia was fairly animated after fielding Benintendi’s bunt attempt, as he supposedly motioned toward the Red Sox’s dugout and could be seen talking to himself as he walked off the mound. Sabathia expressed some displeasure with Boston’s bunting in an interview Sunday with the New York Post.
“To come out and that’s your strategy, that got me going a little bit,” Sabathia told the Post. “Literally, two of the hottest hitters in baseball bunting. If that was their strategy, I (handled) it.”
For what it’s worth, Benintendi — as hot as he’s been in the last month or so — hasn’t had any success against Sabathia in his career, whether he’s swinging or bunting. The young outfielder now is 0-for-9 in his career against Sabathia with three strikeouts. Nunez, similarly, now is 1-for-6 with a couple of strikeouts.
It’s not necessarily a huge breach of baseball etiquette to test a pitcher (especially the size of Sabathia) in his first start back from a knee injury, although it’s easy to understand why someone with the compete level of Sabathia would be peeved by the whole thing.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images