BALTIMORE -- The Yankees need CC Sabathia to live up to his ace billing if they hope to create some serious distance in this September postseason chase, a fact the left-hander is well aware of.
The problem is, Sabathia just isn't pitching with dominance right now. The Orioles launched a season-high three homers off the struggling starter in Saturday's 5-4 win, which has Sabathia searching for answers.
"Nobody is more disappointed than I am in myself today," Sabathia said. "The idea is to go out and get us a win and pitch well enough to keep us close, and not have to scratch and claw. Those last two innings are definitely my fault."
Sabathia was referring to the Yankees' rallies in the eighth and ninth innings, which came up just short -- in the eighth as Curtis Granderson fouled out to leave two men aboard, and in the ninth as Mark Teixeira was ruled out by umpire Jerry Meals on a disputed game-ending call at first base, preventing the tying run from scoring.
But long before that, Sabathia was having trouble with his velocity. Catcher Russell Martin suggested that Sabathia may have been sacrificing pitch speed for command in an outing that saw Mark Reynolds, Lew Ford and J.J. Hardy homer off the left-hander.
"Today was just one of those days where we were just searching, and we couldn't find a way to get guys out," Martin said. "His slider wasn't as effective as usual, his slider wasn't consistent. I just feel like he didn't have the best feel for his pitches."
Sabathia insisted that he still feels healthy and that there has been no recurrence of his left elbow soreness, which necessitated a stint on the disabled list last month -- his second trip this year.
"I feel good. I can't sit here and make excuses and say I'm hurting," Sabathia said. "I went out there and pitched. I just didn't pitch well."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.