CC Sabathia's worst pitch last night was the first one he threw, a ball that Detroit's Austin Jackson drilled for a lead-off home run. (Jackson's career home-run total now stands at two.) But perhaps the best pitch was his last: a nasty strike three to Jackson end the seventh inning — a far more common outcome for Jackson, the A.L. leader in strikeouts — after a visit to the mound from Girardi that would have ended with most pitchers on the bench and Joba Chamberlain on the mound. That was pitch 115 of the night. That is why the Yankees have Sabathia.
In between, Sabathia allowed just one other run and struck out nine, earning his sixteenth victory in the 6-2 win. Justin Verlander, meanwhile, walked five and allowed three runs in five inefficient innings, though all things considered, after his shaky first inning, his line could have been worse. Among those three runs: a homer by Curtis Granderson, apparently determined to not make Brian Cashman — who acquired Granderson for a package including Jackson — look bad. (Granderson also made a diving catch in the first, shortly after Jackson's home run.)
Both Tampa Bay and Boston won last night, so the standings remain the same: the Yanks and Rays atop the division, and Boston five and a half games back in the wild card race. The Yankees' current concern: Andy Pettitte suffered another setback, and won't return to the rotation until at least September — a big blow to a staff that will already be stretched thin because of Phil Hughes's innings limit. Alex Rodriguez didn't play last night, either, because of a low-grade calf strain that will sideline him for a few days. Needless to say, it's a bad time for a team to be showing its age.