NEW YORK – Carter Capps learned how tough life in the big leagues could be tonight – something his team, the Seattle Mariners, already knew.
A seven-game Seattle winning streak was stopped when CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees dominated them in a 6-3 victory in which the Mariners managed three hits.
The right-handed rookie reliever’s first major league pitch was 100 mph. Another he threw was timed – by the Yankee Stadium radar – at 101 mph. Capps gave up a single on his fourth pitch, walked the next man and then fielded Derek Jeter’s sacrifice bunt. That was that for his first appearance.
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Veteran lefty Oliver Perez allowed both Capps runners to score, so this morning the kid with the triple-digit fastball will wake up with an earned run average of 54.00.
Yeah. Big league life isn’t for the soft.
“It was a great experience facing those hitters in Yankee Stadium,” Capps said. “I was disappointed in myself. I faced three batters, walked one, I didn’t pound the strike zone.
Was he disappointed, he was asked, that a 101 mph pitch was turned into a single by No. 9 hitter Russell Martin.
“Yeah,” he said. “But it happens when you leave the pitch over the middle of the plate.”
Capps will get more chances and, starting today, so will Seattle. Manager Eric Wedge told his team not to worry about losing this one.
“It’s like 'Wedgey' said, ‘CC was on and he’d have beaten anyone tonight,’” said Dustin Ackley, who hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning. “He told us to tip our caps and come back (today) ready to rock and roll. We will.”
Sabathia won his 11th game using two kinds of fastballs, a wicked slider and a changeup, and while left-handed hitters had trouble picking the ball up, right-handers struggled, too.
With New York ahead in the fourth inning, 2-0, Casper Wells got a first-pitch changeup and hit it out.
“I ran around the bases as fast as I could, I wanted to keep the momentum going,” Wells said, then grinned sheepishly. “And out of the corner of my eye, I saw CC staring at me.”
Kevin Millwood kept it right there, a one-run game, into the sixth inning. Then, with two outs and a runner on first base, Eric Chavez lofted a towering fly ball toward the right field wall.
Outfielder Eric Thames got there, timed his leap and went up – but wasn’t the first one to touch the ball.
A fan was.
“I was right at the wall looking up, and when I jumped all I saw were gloves over me,” Thames said. “I saw the replay, it was just bad luck – there was nothing more to do.
“The fans weren’t leaning way out over the field, they were right above the wall. The ball hit somebody’s glove first, then hit mine. It is a game of inches.”
That home run gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead, which jumped two runs an inning later against Capps and Perez.
“I had good location on the fastball, my changeup was OK but my curve stunk,” Millwood said. “I had enough to compete.”
And that game-changing home run?
“It’s a home run, there’s nothing more to say,” Millwood said.
Should Wedge have argued fan interference? It wouldn’t have mattered, but his players seemed to think the home run was what it was.
“I thought he had a chance to catch it,” center fielder Wells said, “but then fans did what fans do. They do it everywhere.”
At one point, in the seventh inning, the Yankees had out-hit the Mariners, 11-1. Yes, Sabathia was that good.
The Yankees piled up all manner of hits, include three doubles and that one home run. They also got a 15-foot nubber in front of the plate from old friend Ichiro.
Millwood came off the mound, picked it up and lost his footing on his throw to first.
“I’d have been upset, but he’s been doing it too many million times before,” Millwood said, not worrying about the math.
What it came down to, in the end, was Sabathia having a good night. Wedge, who was with Sabathia in Cleveland, said as much.
“CC had it working tonight,” Wedge said. “That was the best I’ve seen him. We didn’t give at-bats away tonight, we just got beat by a great pitcher on his game.”
So the Mariners are 7-1 in their last eight games. It’s still a nice run, and they’ve got Felix Hernandez pitching today against 10-game winner Hiroki Kuroda.
No, as the 21-year-old Capps learned, baseball at this level isn’t easy and isn’t for the soft.