Remember when CC Sabathia was good?
That’s the sort of question Paul Molitor doesn’t want to hear today. Go ahead, point to the left-hander’s 5.25 ERA, his 19 homers allowed, his 4-8 record. Now get in the batter’s box and see what you think.
“I guess my comparison would be [Detroit’s Justin] Verlander. He hasn’t had a normal Verlander year, and people talked about him coming in here like you were supposed to be licking your chops or something,” Molitor said. “And he pretty much stuck it to us.”
He did, pitching seven shutout innings on July 10 before giving up a run in the eighth, setting the stage for the Twins’ seven-run rally in the ninth. Now comes Sabathia, a former Cy Young winner who, just four days after his 35th birthday, is showing signs of age. Sabathia has allowed four or more runs in 10 of his 18 starts this season, but he’s also given up three total runs in his last two starts, last week dueling Felix Hernandez to a one-run-in-six-innings draw.
Oh, and then there’s this: Sabathia is 17-9 all-time against the Twins, and 5-1 as a Yankee with a 2.66 ERA.
“He knows how to win. This year hasn’t been his best, but he’s coming off a really good start,” Molitor said. “ He’s got a good track record against our team, so we’re certainly going to have to battle to find a way to score.”
They’ll do it with an all-right-handed lineup, with Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario on the bench. Why? Despite his problems, Sabathia is still an All-Star against left-handers, holding them to a .189 average this season. He hasn’t walked a single left-handed batter this year, either. Rosario has never faced Sabathia, but Mauer has, and it isn’t pretty: 7-for-41 (.171) with 16 strikeouts.
On the other side, Tommy Milone is attempting to come back from his worst start of the season, giving up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings in Oakland.
“Tommy is one of our calmer individuals. I don’t think he’s fazed when he hits a little bit of a speed bump like that,” Molitor said. “He’s probably as good as anybody we have, as far as wiping the slate and coming back.” Plus, he’s allowed only two runs in his two career starts against New York.
It’s Brian Dozier bobblehead day, so Target Field is already filling up. Here are the lineups for the 6:10 p.m. start: