C.C. Sabathia got ejected and cost himself $500,000 with a single pitch

C.C. Sabathia got ejected and cost himself $500,000 with a single pitch

When the New York Yankees played the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, a legendary baseball moment was born. C.C. Sabathia, a mere two innings from receiving a $500,000 bonus for pitching 155 innings in 2018, was ejected for intentionally throwing at Jesus Sucre.

But it wasn’t just a simple ejection. It was so much more than that. It was ejection art.

Let’s back up to what started the kerfuffle. In the top of the sixth inning, Rays pitcher Andrew Kittredge hit Austin Romine on the shoulder with a pitch. It seemed to be an accident, but that didn’t matter to Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. Seconds after Romine got his tower buzzed, C.C. actually came out of the dugout to register his displeasure with one of his teammates being hit. That could only mean one thing: retaliation.

But not so fast. Marc Carig of the Athletic was at the game, and tweeted this interesting fact about Sabathia’s contract.

So if C.C. pitched another two innings, just the bottom of the sixth and seventh, he would get a $500,000 bonus. And on top of that, he was completely in control of the game. He’d been mowing down Rays hitters, and had allowed just one hit and no runs through five. Plus, after Romine was hit, the Yankees scored four runs in the top of the sixth, and led Tampa 11-0.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 21: CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees in action against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 10-8. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Maybe the Yankees scoring so many runs in the sixth, effectively putting the game out of reach for the Rays, helped Sabathia decide what to do next. Or maybe it didn’t, and he decided that he would give up that $500,000 and go out in a blaze of glory no matter what. Because that’s exactly what he did. When he took the mound in the bottom of the sixth, he threw one pitch. That pitch hit Jesus Sucre on his thigh, and cost Sabathia $500,000.

From there, things got insane and awesome. (NSFW language incoming.)

C.C. was automatically ejected, because it’s never okay for a pitcher to intentionally hit another player with a pitch. But wow, that’s a totally epic way to go out.

Sucre took first base and didn’t appear to be injured. The benches didn’t clear, and Sabathia left the field without an issue (after the crotch-grabbing, of course). But Aaron Judge wanted to make sure the Rays bullpen was up to date and totally fine with everything that had happened.

Aaron Judge vs. the Rays bullpen: who ya got?

Sabathia will most likely receive a fine (losing himself a $500,000 bonus doesn’t count), but there could be more punishment. While pitchers almost never admit to retaliating, there’s no question of Sabathia’s intent, especially given his behavior before and after the pitch. But no matter what happens, Sabathia has set a new standard for baseball ejections. Because if you decide to shrug off a $500,000 pay day in favor of getting ejected to stand up for a teammate, you automatically become a legend.

Rays eliminated from the playoffs for 5th consecutive season

Rays eliminated from the playoffs for 5th consecutive season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Rays were eliminated from the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season in a 4-1 loss Monday night to the New York Yankees.

New York’s win eliminated the Rays and ensured a postseason berth for Oakland, which is likely to be the Yankees’ wild-card opponent but also is still alive in the American League West race.

The Rays (87-69) weren’t helped by stiff competition in the AL East. The 2018 Boston Red Sox are the winningest team in franchise history after winning their 106th game of the season Monday night. At 96-60, the Yankees are assured of their best record since going 97-65 in 2011.

Tampa Bay has gone 38-22 since the All-Star break.

Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Related: Man sues the Tampa Bay Rays for sending him text messages, asks for up to $1,500

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A's clinch playoff spot thanks to Yanks' win over Rays

A's clinch playoff spot thanks to Yanks' win over Rays

SEATTLE – Oakland, one of the more unlikely success stories in recent seasons, blew a chance to clinch a playoff spot at home Sunday but on Monday wound up in the postseason for the first time since 2014 thanks to Tampa Bay’s loss to the Yankees.

Oakland finished in last place in each of the previous three seasons and was not expected to finish higher than third in the AL West in 2018, with most experts figuring the A’s for a .500 team at best.

New York, which holds the top wild-card spot, beat the Rays 4-1 at Tropicana Field, knocking Tampa Bay out of the running. With the Yankees’ win, the A’s are two games behind the Yankees for home-field advantage going into Monday night’s game against the Mariners.

Traveling to New York, however, might not be the worst outcome. The A’s have been sensational on the road this season, going 36-19 since May 14, and the team is averaging 5.41 runs per game away from the Coliseum compared to 4.56 at home.

In addition, travel conditions might be easier opening in New York rather than at the Coliseum – whichever team wins the one-game, winner-take-all wild card would then head to Boston for the American League Division Series.

Susan Slusser is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @susanslusser

MLB scores, highlights, live team updates, news: Rays' Blake Snell adds to Cy Young case, winning No. 21

MLB scores, highlights, live team updates, news: Rays' Blake Snell adds to Cy Young case, winning No. 21

It’s the penultimate Sunday of baseball’s regular season. Keep it here for all the latest news, notes, and scores.

Sunday’s baseball scores

Rays 5, Blue Jays 2 (box score)
Royals 3, Tigers 2 (box score)
Marlins 6, Reds 0 (box score)
Orioles 6, Yankees 3 (box score
Braves 2, Phillies 1 (box score)
Mets 8, Nationals 6 (box score
Brewers 13, Pirates 6 (box score
Cubs 6, White Sox 1 (box score
Astros 6, Angels 2 (box score
Cardinals 9, Giants 2 (box score
Rangers 6, Mariners 1 (box score
Twins 5, Athletics 1 (box score
Dodgers 14, Padres 0 (box score)
Rockies 2, Diamondbacks 0 (box score
Red Sox at Indians (GameTracker)

Snell wins 21st

Blake Snell continued to make a bid for the American League Cy Young Award on Sunday, winning his 21st game of the season by topping the Blue Jays.

Snell threw 6 ⅔ innings, holding the Jays to three hits and two walks. He didn’t allow an earned run, but he did strike out 11 batters. His seasonal ERA is down to 1.90.

Snell now owns the most single-season wins in franchise history. Previously he’d been tied with David Price‘s 2012 effort. We’ll see if Snell can add some hardware as Price did then. 

A’s let Rays hang around for at least one more day

The A’s came into Sunday with 94 wins while the Rays had 68 losses. Those add to 162, which means the magic number for the A’s to eliminate the Rays and clinch a playoff berth is just one. On Sunday, though, the Rays won while the A’s lost to the Twins. We’ll head to the final week knowing that if the A’s lose out and the Rays win out, there will be a one-game playoff to make the one-game wild card. 

Otherwise, the five AL playoff teams are set. 

Freeland dominates, but Rockies can’t gain ground

A few days ago, I wrote about how Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland deserves more national attention and should finish fourth behind the “big three” in NL Cy Young voting. All he did Sunday with his team desperately trying to get back into playoff position was throw seven scoreless innings while striking out six and walking just one. He’s now 16-7 with a 2.84 ERA this season. 

Unfortunately for the Rockies, the Dodgers and Cardinals both won. That means the Rockies are still 1 1/2 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West and the same 1 1/2 out of the second wild card spot. 

The Rockies return home to face two teams with nothing to play for this week, though both have talent. They get four against the reeling Phillies (see below) and then three against the Nationals. The games definitely aren’t gimmes but are winnable. The Rockies might need to go something like 6-1 in order to have a shot, but I’d say the goal needs to be to win out. Gaining 1 1/2 games in seven against teams only playing six in the week is pretty tough without lots of help. 

Pirates allow three to score on wild pitch, error

The Pirates didn’t have the best afternoon. Need evidence? Consider this whopper of a play:

Your eyes don’t mislead you. Michael Feliz uncorked a bases-loaded wild pitch that permitted every baserunner to score. Granted, that included a throwing error, but jeez.

The Pirates entered Sunday 12-6 in September. 

The Brewers obviously won this game, and … 

NL Central contenders all win; Cubs’ magic number to five

As we continue to progress through September with the NL Central having three of the top teams in the National League, it’s becoming increasingly likely all three will make the postseason. It would mark the third time in the last four seasons that both NL wild cards came from the same division:

  • 2015: Cubs and Pirates
  • 2017: Rockies and Diamondbacks

The Cubs on Sunday ran their NL-best record to 91-64 by taking care of business against the White Sox. They only have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Brewers and 4 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals, but the magic number is down to five with one week to play. It’s not over yet, but the Cubs are awfully close to taking their third-straight NL Central title. 

Astros magic number is three

The defending World Series champions have been on a 100-plus win pace throughout pretty much the entire season, but they’ve never had a lead in the AL West of more than six games, thanks to the Mariners and then A’s pushing them. They actually fell into a tie with the A’s three different days in August and were only leading by 1 1/2 games heading into September. 

Things have settled back in order for Houston now, though. With an Astros win Sunday along with an A’s loss, the lead is up to 4 1/2 and the magic number is down to three. When the lead exceeds the magic number, we can safely call it. The Astros will win the AL West within the next few days, paving the way for an excellent Indians-Astros bout in the ALDS. 

Phillies lose again, in danger of losing season

Once the dust settles on this 2018 season, it might look like the Phillies weren’t even a contender. Who would’ve thought that earlier this season? 

Thanks to their fourth consecutive loss on Sunday, they are now just 78-77 on the season. 

The Phillies haven’t been under .500 since they were 4-5 heading into April 10. They were as many as 15 games over .500, last on August 7, when they were in first place in the NL East. Since then, they have gone 14-28. The only team in all of baseball worse in that stretch is the 110-loss Orioles. 

The Phillies now travel to Colorado for a four-game series against a Rockies team that needs wins to make the playoffs. Betting on the Phillies to dip below .500 on the trip seems like the correct route. 

Quick hits

Live team updates

Blake Snell goes for a Rays' rarity, his 20th win Tuesday

Blake Snell goes for a Rays' rarity, his 20th win Tuesday

ARLINGTON, Texas — Blake Snell is still focused on smaller numbers that can have a larger impact, specifically the seven games his Rays went into play Monday trailing the A’s for the final American League playoff spot.

“We’ve still got a shot,” he said, “and I still look at it like we can do it.”

But when Snell takes the mound Tuesday against the Rangers, he will be staring at a pretty big — and historically more significant — number: 20.

As in 20 wins for the season, which would make him just the second pitcher in Rays history to reach that hallowed milestone.

“For him to have a couple opportunities to get to 20 and beyond, I think that that’s very special,” the first, David Price, said by phone Monday. “It makes it even more special that it’s with Tampa (Bay) in a division that they’re the third best team even though they have a really good team. I know how tough that can be throughout the course of a season to play like that.

“For him to stay as consistent and as sharp as he has throughout the entire year, that’s just a tribute to his work ethic and his mind-set.”

Do 20 wins matter? The evolution in educated analysis and advanced metrics have diminished the value of wins as a measure of a pitcher’s success because so much is out of his control. The most current example to cite is Jacob deGrom, who has a major-best 1.79 ERA over 30 starts but only eight wins (and nine losses) for a bad Mets team.

And Snell, for what it’s worth, said he doesn’t make much of a W, saying he never includes wins in the individual goals he sets, preferring ERA and innings.

But, still, there is something about 20 that makes it one of baseball’s magic numbers, much like 30 homers and 100 RBIs, but much harder — and rarer — to achieve. Since the Rays began playing in 1998, there have been only three seasons with five or more 20-game winners and five with none or one.

“Getting to 20 wins, that’s still a very, very special number throughout baseball,” said Price, who won 20 for the Rays in his 2012 Cy Young season — another discussion Snell is in — and now pitches for the Red Sox.

“It might not mean as much to the stat guys or whoever, but to get to 20 wins, you’re winning 67 percent of your stats, that’s doing it.”

As much as his bosses are among those advancing the metrics, Rays manager Kevin Cash showed his old-school side in admitting that getting to 20 W’s is still a big deal for him, too, and one that established starters still target and value.

“To get to 20 wins you have to be out there a lot, you have to show some consistency, you’ve got to pitch deep in ballgames, and Blake has done that,” Cash said. “I think it’s a huge number for a pitcher. Sometimes you’re at the mercy of your club, I understand that debate. But ultimately if you’re winning 20 ballgames, you’re kind of putting the club on your back and carrying a lot of the load. And Blake has done that.”

Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder was even more direct.

“I hope it will forever be a big deal,” he said. “Wins mean a lot to me, but I think they should mean a lot to every pitcher. Putting up zeroes, giving your team a chance to score more than they other team while you’re still in the game, then holding that lead when that happens, those are all big deals. And probably not talked about enough.

“The underlying peripherals, or whatever people want to call them, compared to — I understand FIP, xFIP, SIERA (all metrics to quantify a pitcher’s performance), I understand all of that in terms of what is left to chance and what you’re actually able to control, but to me, throwing up a zero after we take the lead, that’s real to me.”

Winning 20 — or more, with two more starts likely after Tuesday— isn’t the only individual honor Snell is pitching for. Doing so will push him further into the conversation, and actual consideration, for the American League Cy Young award, voted on by 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

As Boston teammates with Chris Sale, another strong Cy candidate, Price had to tread a little carefully, saying it will be a “very interesting” and down to the wire race but noted Snell — 19-5, 2.03 to this point — has a strong case.

And, at 25, a tremendous future.

“His body of work this year has spoke for itself,” Price said. “If he doesn’t get one this year, he will definitely get one in the foreseeable future, and possibly a couple of them. This could be an award that’s named after him after a couple years. Hopefully he can continue on with the way that he’s throwing the ball and having good health. He’s going to do some really special things in this game.”

Snell was pitching for the Class A Stone Crabs when Price was traded away in July 2014, but Price has been well aware of the talent and potential, saying several times over the last couple years Snell could end up better than him, and any of the other frontline starters the Rays have produced over the years,

“He might be the best pitcher that’s come through there already,” Price said. “He’s scratching the surface. He still probably doesn’t even know what he’s doing out there. In a sense, he’s still out there throwing. Whenever he can continue to develop and mature the way he has this year, the sky’s the limit. People are going to start viewing getting hits off him as runs.

“That’s pretty special.”

Say that 20 times, fast.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Rick Hummel: Tommy Pham is making his way as a Ray

Rick Hummel: Tommy Pham is making his way as a Ray

When the July 31 trading deadline without waivers approached, Cardinals center fielder Tommy Pham had assumed, if he was dealt, that he would be going to one of two American League contenders – Houston or Cleveland – both of which had been reported to be seeking outfield help.

“When they told me Tampa Bay, I said, ‘What?’ ” recalled Pham.

But then Pham said Rays general manager Erik Neander told him, “We’ve been trying to get you for a couple of years.”

“That made me kind of mad,” Pham said. “I’d been stuck in the minors (until last season) BS-ing around when there was a team that wanted me in the big leagues two years ago?”

As nearly everyone is aware of by now, Pham plays better mad. But now he is playing better happy. By his age (30) and his relative experience (nearly three years), he has become one of the leaders of a young Rays squad that has virtually the same record as Pham’s previous employers. The difference is that Tampa Bay plays in the cut-throat American League East, which has certain playoff qualifier Boston and 99.4 percent qualifier New York.

“I was very surprised coming over here,” Pham said. “Joey Wendle, who I played against in the minors, I’ve always thought was a great player. I liked the way he played the game hard. As far as anyone else on the team, I didn’t know anybody. But when I came here, I got a text from my general manager in winter ball (in the Dominican Republic) and he said, ‘That team is going to be good really quick.’

“I thought, ‘I don’t know what he’s smoking.’ But once I started playing with these guys, I can see why.

“From a position player standpoint, this is the hardest-playing team in the big leagues. And I heard (umpire) Joe West said something like, ‘You could count on one hand the number of teams that have played like this in my career.’

“When I got here, I was amazed. On ground balls, everybody runs full speed down the line. On base hits, everybody runs full speed so in case the defense bobbles the ball, we’re at second base. There’s players on every team that do that. But you don’t see a whole team do it.

“This may be the fastest team in the big leagues.”

He equally is impressed by the Rays’ young pitching, including, of course, 19-game winner Blake Snell, who has become the unchallenged ace after the trades of Chris Archer and Nathan Eovaldi.

“The pitching is tremendous here,” Pham said. “A lot of guys throw hard and have good stuff. I don’t even know if they’re going to sign anybody (outside of the organization) because they’re really high on their prospects.

“(Brett) Honeywell is at very worst, a No. 2 starter, they said. And (left-hander Colin) Poche has been putting up video-game numbers.” The reliever fanned 110 in 66 innings at Class AA and AAA this year.

Pham ticked off the names of a couple more young pitchers and said, “They’re a lot like the Cardinals. They’re good at developing arms. And they value guys who can kind of play that Billy Beane ‘Money Ball’ aspect.”

As for himself, Pham, who had a 17-game hitting streak end Saturday, said he still hadn’t been able to find the swing path that had eluded him much of the season.

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” said Pham. “But when I figure out how to quiet my set-up and add what I’m doing now with that set-up, I’m going to be a better hitter all the way around.”

Much like the Cardinals did with Matt Carpenter, who was hitting .140 on May 15, Pham said Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola and Neander showed him “a piece of paper” on which the Tampa Bay analytics department had broken down Pham’s at-bats and determined that he was hitting the ball as well as last year, when he batted .306 with 23 homers and a .931 OBP.

“The underlying stats – swing percentage, hard-hit percentage, all that fancy stuff,” Pham said. “They said this year my numbers should look like last year with how I’m hitting the ball.

“I thought it was crazy. I didn’t personally feel I was hitting like last year. I felt I wasn’t using the whole field as well.

“But they said, based on my hard-hit percentages and line-drive percentages, my numbers should be ‘this and this.’ I thought it was pretty interesting. They think my slugging is way down this year … just because I’ve been very unlucky. They said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing and it’s going to even out.’

“I said, ‘OK.’

“Since then, I’m in the 3/4/5 slash line (.300 average, 400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage) I had put up last year. They think they’ve found gold with me. They told me, ‘We got you for cheap (three minor league prospects). We always believed you would be the player you were last year. We still think you are.’

“And then their analytics department backed it up with numbers.”

Pham suffered a broken bone in his foot in his second game and lately has been playing with a dislocated finger on his right hand – which has affected his grip strength – and a groin injury, which has sapped his speed.

But Pham batted .391 (27 for 692) during his hitting streak. Coincidentally, when the Oakland Athletics showed up in St. Petersburg, Fla., this weekend, Cardinals ex-pat outfielder Stephen Piscotty carried a hitting streak of 14 games, in which he had hit .373.

Pham has been in the American League for just more than a month. But that has been enough time for him to watch the Red Sox, Indians and New York Yankees and say, “In the AL, there’s no breather. There’s a big gap between the NL’s best teams and the AL’s best teams. A huge gap.

“The difference is that in the AL, the offenses are more dynamic. They can hit for power and can run and they all play the game hard. In the NL, there are not too many guys who are dual threats. In the AL, there are more guys who are dual threats – who can steal a base besides hit for power.”

Pham hasn’t been doing much of either lately, owing to his injuries. He has three homers and two steals (“I’ve been running like crap,” he said) with Tampa Bay and plans to have surgery on his groin and his finger after the season is over.

“I know Yadi (Molina) always plays with stuff like this,” Pham said. “I’m starting to see how Yadier feels.”

Pham keeps tabs on the Cardinals and said it was hard to leave teammates after being in the organization for a dozen years.

“It’s tough,” he said, “because I was so close with a lot of guys. But it’s a business, which everyone has said.”

He notably has watched his replacement, Harrison Bader, come of age as a defender in center field. Pham, who lines up in left field in Tampa Bay next to two-time Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier, said, “Bader can play. He can run and he throws well. He can run the bases but he has to become a better hitter.”

The longer Pham is away the more he is adjusting, and he said, “Winning helps. This game is really fun when everyone is playing well and when the team is winning.”

The Rays are 19-6 with Pham in the lineup. “So I’ve got to stay in the lineup,” Pham said.

All the while, he can hope the Cardinals maintain their pace. “I get a playoff share,” said Pham.