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By Joe Haggerty
NEW YORK -- There was little doubt CC Sabathia was "on" while allowing only a pair of runs in eight innings against the Sox while winning his 14th game of the season on Saturday afternoon.
Sabathia cruised through on 101 pitches and allowed just six hits and a pair of runs while fanning four in a workmanlike effort.
David Ortiz got an up-close view of Sabathia's stuff while going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts – including a pair of called strike threes that didn't leave Big Papi with a very good feeling in his stomach. Big Papi made reference to the umpires attempting to speed up games this season by widening the strike zone during a 'get this off your chest' moment following the 5-2 loss, and responded with "it's a joke" when asked about that afternoon's zone.
The feeling gets augmented when it's a Yankees/Red Sox matchup that's become synonymous with four-hour games and skyrocketing pitch counts.
Saturday's national game on Fox finished in only 2:47 and Ortiz would seem to be making a connection between the game's rapid pace and the umpires' widened strike zone that raised some level of ire in both dugouts at Yankee Stadium.
Ortiz knows he's not a bad-ball hitter like Adrian Beltre or Vlad Guerrero, and that his ability to hit the ball with authority is compromised once the strike zone starts getting widened.
Consequently he has 109 strikeouts already this season and is on pace for a career-high 166 strikeouts after setting a new career-high with 134 punch outs last season amped up by his difficult first two months of the season.
The first called strike three of the day for Ortiz in the third inning set the tone for Boston's designated hitter, and appeared on television replays to be a tailing Sabathia fastball that finished out of the strike zone.
That didn't exactly make for a happy Big Papi kind of afternoon in a ballpark he's made his personal playground over the years.
"I don't have that ability to hit the ball off the plate like Vladdy [Guerrero], you know" said Ortiz. "I can't tell you because I didn't really see that many strikes that I can hit."
What did Big Papi think of home plate umpire Jerry Layne's strike zone?
"It's a joke," said Ortiz. "You got to swing at all kinds of [expletive]. That's all you can do, man. Swing, swing, swing and good luck. You have to. [It's the] pace time that's killing the game so now we've got to rush as a hitter.
"Tomorrow is another day and I'll be swinging."
Felix Doubront was all smiles after pitching a perfect inning of relief and making his Yankee Stadium debut all in the same outing. The 22-year-old lefty needed only 14 pitches to get through the eighth inning and fanned both Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner to close out an ideal non-pressure appearance out of the bullpen.
"One. Two. Three. Pretty good. A lot of fastballs," said catcher Victor Martinez. "He pitched for us earlier in the season and he had a few innings under his belt. I think he was okay on the mound."
Doubront anticipated warming up as the biggest challenge he might face converting from starter to reliever, but instead he humped up his velocity to 92-93 mph on his fastball and gave the Sox a glimpse of the possibilities out of the pen.
"He was the same that we've always seen, which is good. He had good poise. It was probably good to get him in there," said manager Terry Francona. "As we said before the game, we're excited about letting this kid get in there, get comfortable and see how much he can help us."
Doubront said he was a Mets fan growing up as a youngster in the Dominican Republic, but it's pretty clear that pitching in the Bronx also had some pretty special meaning to the young lefty. The performance also showed that whatever the Sox thought they saw in Doubront with relief possibilities was pretty much on the mark.
Doubront also threw exclusively out of the stretch during his relief appearance, and said he felt "more comfortable" doing it that way.
"It felt good," said Doubront. "After a couple of throws I said I was ready after [warming up] for two batters. I don't know about other times, but today was easy. For a first time this was a pretty good situation.
"I broke the ice in Yankee Stadium and that makes me feel very happy. I'm confident that I got to face those guys that I've seen on TV. For me that's pretty good. When I was a kid I used to watch the Yankees on TV, so it was good to face them."
Adrian Beltre extended his hitting streak to 13 games while going 2-for-4 and is batting .352 (19-for-54) during that stretch. Beltre has also hit safely in 20-of-22 games since the All-Star break, while hitting at a .356 clip.
Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the Red Sox starting lineup one day after making a face-first diving catch in center field at Yankee Stadium, but Francona said it was regularly-scheduled day off for the center fielder against abathia. Ellsbury is 1-for-13 in his career against Sabathia and joined lefty-swinging Ryan Kalish on the bench.
"The only fallout from [last night's catch] was Ellsbury getting grass caught in his teeth," said Francona. "It had always been in the plans to give Jacoby the day off. We don't need any Nomar Garciaparra fiascos here."
The Sox skipper, of course, is referring to the infamous 2004 regular-season game at Yankee Stadium when Derek Jeter crashed into the stands and busted up his face to make a catch in foul territory while Garciaparra watched the game from the visitor's dugout and never played. Weeks later Garciaparra was dealt from the Sox in the Orlando Cabrera/Doug Mientkiewicz trades and the shortstop was roundly criticized for not playing through any discomfort or pain.
Hideki Okajima was the 16th player to go on the DL this
season for the Red Sox when he was placed on the injured
list Friday and -- of those 16 -- a whopping nine
of those players are current or former All-Stars. That pretty much puts
into perspective how badly the Sox have been slapped by the injury bug
Joe Haggerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Joe on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HackswithHaggs