McAdam: Sox continue to beat up on Sabathia

McAdam: Sox continue to beat up on Sabathia
August 7, 2011, 2:56 am
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By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

BOSTON -- In four games against CC Sabathia this season, the Red Sox are 4-0 and have scored six or more runs in three of the four games.

But ask them to explain their success against the big lefty and the Red Sox suddenly seemed more overmatched by the question that Sabathia himself.

It's a mystery to them, too, why Sabathia is 16-2 with a 2.11 ERA against everyone else in baseball, but 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Sox.

Perhaps they were just being polite, but the Sox had far fewer answers than they had runs scored.

"Believe me,'' said manager Terry Francona, "it's not like we see him and think, 'Oh, we're going to lunch up on this guy.' He's good. He's really good.''

Against lineups other than the Red Sox, yes. He had allowed seven runs in his last eight starts combined; Saturday night, he gave up seven to the Red Sox by the end of the sixth inning.

Sabathia found himself in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the fourth after his teammates had negated a two-run third with two runs of their own off Red Sox starter John Lackey in the top of the fourth.

But just as quickly, the Sox exploded for five runs in the bottom of the fourth to blow the game open, with the big hit coming on Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run blast into the seats in right.

Asked to explain the Red Sox' almost inexplicable success against Sabathia, Dustin Pedroia offered: "I don't know -- luck, I guess. He's got great stuff. We know what CC's about. He's a competitor. He's their horse.

"But we've been able to get big hits at the right time. We did that today.''

Pedroia said the Sox haven't necessarily taken the same approach against Sabathia in each of the four starts. Against an experienced ace like Sabathia, the methodology has to change because Sabathia won't fall into predictable patterns.

"You're only going to get one pitch to hit -- if that -- each at-bat,'' said Pedroia. "You've got to make sure you hit it (when you get the chance).''

Surely, the Red Sox' habit of grinding out at-bats serves them well against Sabathia. For the most part, Red Sox hitters don't often get themselves out by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.

Instead, they work pitchers and grind, getting themselves in hitter's counts, then taking full advantage.

It helps, too, that the Sox know what to expect from Sabathia. The more teams see a pitcher, the more familiar they get.

Finally, this Red Sox team has a habit of rising to a challenge. Last year, they were able to beat perennial Cy Young Award candidates like Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, while chasing Ubaldo Jiminez.

"You want to rise to the occasion against good pitchers,'' said hitting coach Dave Magadan.

"We grind out at-bats, get on base and try to wear him down,'' shrugged Adrian Gonzalez.

"Good pitchers like that,'' offered David Ortiz, "it's just the one inning where they make a few mistakes and things like that happen. It happened to (Jon Lester) the other day. Today, he had that one inning when he made the mistake to Ellsbury.''

To put into historical perspective, the last time the Red Sox beat a Yankee starter four times in the same season was 1975, when they did so to Pat Dobson.

Sabathia, meanwhile, had never lost to the same team four times in the same year until he was saddled with another defeat to the Sox on Saturday.

"We've made him work and we've gotten some big hits in two-out situations,'' said Magadan, reflecting back on the four wins against Sabathia. "But there's no secret. You need to make him work. When you have at-bats against CC or Felix (Hernandez), you don't want to have those one-pitch at-bats where it makes their job easier.''

"I'm glad (we've had success against him),'' said Francona, ''because at some point, you have to beat pitchers like that. He's had his way with a lot of teams, (but) we've given him a good battle. I'm sure we'll face him a few times.''

Unlike other teams, they'll do so with some confidence.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.