TORONTO — CC Sabathia has meant to so much to the Yankees this season.
And yet here he is, injured again, frustrated that his right knee — the one he has the brace on — is giving him trouble once more. Sabathia needed to come out after just 57 pitches in Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre after tweaking his knee sometime during the third inning.
“It was just the same feeling I get when my knee hurts,” Sabathia said. “It’s just a pain. It’s just frustrating. It’s been healthy all year.”
Sabathia is headed back to New York on Wednesday, and will see a doctor. The 37-year-old lefty doesn’t know whether he will require a stint on the disabled list. Earlier this season, Sabathia missed about three weeks due to a left hamstring strain.
“There’s concern there,” Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees are 13-6 in Sabathia’s starts — and seven games over .500 overall. Granted, Sabathia has struggled in his past three outings, pitching to an 8.10 ERA. On Tuesday night, he surrendered a pair of two-run homers to Josh Donaldson — one on a changeup and the other on a 3-0 backdoor slider.
“It’s just hard to land, get over my front side and finish my pitches,” Sabathia said. “When I can’t do that, I don’t know where the ball is going.”
If Sabathia does need to go on the DL, 24-year-old rookie southpaw Jordan Montgomery could find himself back in the majors fairly quickly. The Yankees optioned Montgomery to Triple-A Scranton this week, and he is slated to start on Saturday.
The Bombers, who wanted to slice their rotation from six to five, planned to shorten Montgomery’s outings in the minors to keep him on-pace for a limit of around 180 innings. Montgomery (7-6, 4.05 ERA in 21 starts) is at 115.2 innings — 36.1 innings shy of his career-high set last season (including playoffs).
Bryan Mitchell, who overcame his own two fielding errors to pitch four scoreless innings in relief of Sabathia, is also technically on turn.
Furthermore, the Yankees continue to have trouble offensively. They’ve been held to two or fewer runs in five of their last six games. The biggest concern lies in the middle of the order, where youngsters Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez simply haven’t been producing since the All-Star break.
Judge entered Tuesday’s game hitting .196 against fastballs and hitless against sliders in the second half, according to ESPN. He has now struck out at least once in 25 consecutive games — including 42 times over that span. Sanchez, whose shoddy defense was criticized by Girardi over the weekend, is 1-for-12 in his last four games with a homer and seven strikeouts.
“These are our guys, and they have to get it done,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep going to them, and they have to get it done.”
At least Sanchez didn’t add to his major-league leading passed ball total (12), so there was that.
“I felt good catching tonight,” said Sanchez, who was hit on the side of the left hand with a pitch in the eight but stayed in the game and felt fine afterward, avoiding X-rays. “I’ve been feeling good catching, but tonight I was focusing on being a little quicker when blocking balls in the dirt. Trying to react quicker and be a little bit more prepared for those.”
Clint Frazier, who is in a 5-for-33 slide, was pinch-hit for by Jacoby Ellsbury in the ninth. And the 22-year-old may get sent back to the minors when Aaron Hicks returns from his oblique injury, which could happen as soon as this weekend against Boston. Newcomer Todd Frazier has also struggled, going 4-for-21 so far in August.
The Yankees need more from everyone. And they may need Montgomery or someone else like Mitchell to step back in for Sabathia. Meanwhile, the Red Sox increased their AL East division-lead to four games (three in the loss column) with their seventh consecutive victory — an eight-inning, 13-strikeout gem by ace Chris Sale in Tampa.
The Bombers remain in position to make the playoffs, but there is a lot of baseball left, and they’ve got issues — even if Hicks, Greg Bird and Starlin Castro continue to progress. The way this offense is going, those reinforcements would certainly be welcomed.
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