It’s not a stretch to say this weekend’s series in the Bronx is the biggest series of the season for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
The Red Sox entered the four-game set with a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League East, a full five games ahead in the loss column. Just splitting the series might be enough for the Red Sox to more or less put this thing on ice — a 2011-esque meltdown notwithstanding.
It stands to reason both teams should do all they can to win baseball games this weekend, no?
So then why the hell is Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia so darn irritated with the Red Sox’s continued efforts to bunt against him? The hefty lefty popped off a couple of weeks ago when the Red Sox tested his ability to get off the mound and field his position in his first game back from a knee injury. They did the same Thursday night, and again, Sabathia expressed severe displeasure with the Red Sox, you know, trying to get on base.
“It’s kind of weak to me,” Sabathia said of Eduardo Nunez’s bunt attempt in the first inning of Thursday’s series opener at Yankee Stadium. “It is what it is. It just shows what they’ve got over there.”
I’m all for reigniting the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, and if this is what it takes — bickering over something so minor — then that’s the price we have to pay for the Red Sox and Yankees to get a little testy. But come on, man.
It’s September baseball between two rivals battling to win the division. Why wouldn’t one team do whatever it could to gain an advantage? Sabathia’s knee injuries are well documented. That’s what happens when you’re 37 years old and (presumably) north of 300 pounds. You wear down.
When you wear down, you’re not as mobile. When you’re not as mobile, you have problems fielding your position. When you can’t field your position, the other team should take advantage in order to score runs and win the baseball game.
“I think they think I’m a bigger guy and I can’t field my position,” Sabathia surmised. “I’m an old man, so they should go out and want to kick my butt. I just feel like they tried to take the weak road.”
Sabathia did field Nunez’s bunt cleanly but then made an errant throw to first, seemingly validating Boston’s plan. And, this all happened in the first inning. It’s not like it was a Curt Schilling-Ben Davis situation. The Red Sox, who are 53-18 when scoring first this season, wanted to set the early tone and take a lead on a pitcher against whom they’ve had little success this season.
At what point does trying to win the game become “weak?” That’s a question better suited for Sabathia, probably.
Baseball, of course, has its unwritten rules, and if this game took place in May, maybe that changes things. But again, it’s an important baseball game in an important series, and the Red Sox are trying to win. Nunez and his teammates are professionals, not only invested in the team’s success but their own personal success, too. Sabathia, who’s been around for the better part of two decades, should know that better than anyone.
Regardless, it’s not like Boston’s strategy is working very well. Sabathia is 4-0 with a tidy 1.04 ERA against the Yankees’ rival this season, so he’s obviously not letting it bother him on the mound, making his Thursday night comments even more perplexing.
We’re still not sure why Sabathia was so annoyed by the Red Sox bunting, but given his ultimate success against them this season, his continued moaning and groaning sounds even more like whining.
Thumbnail photo via Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports Images