'Mental lapse' one of CC's few mistakes

'Mental lapse' one of CC's few mistakes

NEW YORK -- In another era, when George Steinbrenner had full authority over the Yankees, statements would have been released and allegations made. After all, CC Sabathia neglected to cover first base on an apparent double-play grounder during a three-run Phillies fourth inning on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

But Sabathia pitched out of the inning. Steinbrenner was not at the ballpark. And the Yankees easily won, 8-3, in an Interleague rematch of last fall's World Series combatants. Oh, by the way, the Yankees won then, too, vanquishing the Phillies in six games.

"That was my fault," Sabathia told reporters about the play. "It was just a mental error. I apologized to [first baseman Mark Teixeira] after that."

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

Sabathia outpitched Roy Halladay in their third head-to-head meeting, lasting seven innings while allowing just the three runs on five hits, walking three and whiffing seven. He's 7-3 on the season and 2-1 lifetime in duels against Halladay.

"I don't even know what to say about that," Sabathia said with a grin.

It was a night for smiles all around. By the time the big left-hander took the mound for the fourth inning, the Yanks had already jumped out to a rare 5-0 lead against Halladay, a right-hander who during his Toronto days was 18-6 against the Yankees.

Sabathia had retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced without allowing a hit when Chase Utley grounded a ball back through the box that the lefty deflected with his pitching hand for an infield single. The two-time defending National League champions began to mount a rally after that and eventually pulled to within two runs.

"The first three innings, he was as sharp as we've seen him all year," Yanks manager Joe Girardi said about Sabathia. "And then he gets hit in the hand. You just wonder how it will affect a guy. He got hit a couple of starts ago, and it took him a few pitches to get the feeling back in his hand. I could tell him again to keep his big mitts out of the way, but it's instinctual."

Girardi said not to expect Sabathia to use the deflection as an excuse, and he was right.

"It didn't affect me at all -- I didn't lose any feeling," Sabathia said. "The last time, I threw the ball away and my hand kind of went numb. But this time, I felt nothing."

With no outs and the bases loaded, Sabathia let up a pair of run-scoring singles. The bases remained loaded and Ben Francisco bounced a grounder to Teixeira, who tossed quickly to shortstop Derek Jeter, covering second base for the force. Sabathia never roamed far off the mound, failing to cover first on the return throw, which Jeter never made. A run scored, and the bases remained jammed.

"It was a total mental lapse," said Sabathia, who was asked about the play at least three times. "It wasn't played wrong or anything like that."

The play was reminiscent of one during a Spring Training game back in 1999, when then-Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu didn't cover first base on a ground ball during the club's final Grapefruit League game, thus generating Steinbrenner's ire. It was the second successive game that the Japanese pitcher had loafed on a play, and Steinbrenner called him a "toad."

Irabu was banished from the team's trip to Oakland, where the Yankees opened the season, a dictum that was later rescinded by Steinbrenner, who ultimately apologized for the remark.

But these are different days around the defending World Series champions, with Steinbrenner's younger son, Hal, essentially running the club. No harm, no foul.

"We'll talk about that," Girardi said about the Sabathia play. "He's not going to get him anyway. That's the bottom line. When you fall off [the mound] that way, it's got to be a quick pivot, but we will talk to him."

It all became moot anyway when Sabathia buckled down to strike out Juan Castro and induced Carlos Ruiz to ground out, ending the inning.

Sabathia also pitched out of a bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning, ultimately retiring the final seven batters he faced. Sabathia left after the seventh having thrown 113 pitches.

"I thought I had pretty good stuff," Sabathia said. "I was just trying to get out of the [fourth] inning without letting up any more runs, just trying to get my team back in the dugout.

"We'd been swinging the bats pretty well against Halladay. I just wanted to keep that rolling."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.