NEW YORK -- The Yankees have seen their pitchers surrender 11 or more runs in three consecutive games for the first time in nearly 15 years, and the most alarming installment might have come on Tuesday, when CC Sabathia couldn't make it out of the fifth inning against the Phillies.
Sabathia has already voiced his difficulty in accepting that he is not the same innings-eating ace of seasons gone by, but after the offensively challenged Phillies knocked him around in their 11-6 win at Yankee Stadium, some may wonder if he is still one of their five best starting options.
"There's a lot of season left, obviously," Sabathia said. "I feel good about my stuff and my body, where I'm at. It's just a matter of me going out and executing and putting a game plan together and pitching better."
Sabathia has remained effective against left-handed hitters, but right-handed hitters are crushing him to an OPS well over .900, a theme that continued in Tuesday's no-decision effort as Sabathia's ERA inflated from 5.31 to 5.65.
"It comes down to mistakes," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "The bottom line is, it has to be consistency in pitches. Right now, he's missing location. I think one of the home runs was a changeup that cut, and when those things happen, you're going to get hit."
Cameron Rupp's first big league home run and Maikel Franco's opposite-field, three-run blast highlighted the Phils' five-run fourth inning.
Sabathia was dented for six runs and eight hits -- three of them off the bat of Cesar Hernandez -- while walking two and striking out four. The other runs were surrendered by Dellin Betances (four) and Nick Rumbelow (one).
"I really don't have an answer," Sabathia said. "I feel like I'm just getting in some bad counts and these guys have been not missing."
It marked the first time since Sept. 27-29, 2000, that the Yankees have surrendered at least 11 runs in three straight games; a string that came during the club's late-season tailspin before Joe Torre's squad righted itself just in time for World Series title No. 26.
"It's not enjoyable to watch, and it's not enjoyable to be a part of it," Girardi said. "The pitchers are doing everything they can to get people out. Right now we're just not making pitches, and we've got to get better at it."
The Yankees will welcome right-hander Ivan Nova back to the rotation on Wednesday, and Girardi has said that he anticipates going with a six-man staff for a little while, though one arm will likely be deleted from the starting five by the time the Yanks return from the West Coast on July 2.
They don't see Nova as an option in relief, having just built him up to start, and with Chris Capuano already shuffled off to a long-man role, that leaves Adam Warren -- who has done nothing to deserve a bullpen demotion, going 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 13 starts, yet may wind up bolstering the relief crew anyway.
Girardi repeatedly notes that those types of decisions tend to take care of themselves, but he immediately rejected the suggestion of bumping Sabathia to the bullpen.
"He's a starter for us. That's what he is," Girardi said. "That's what we're paying him to do, and that's what he's going to do."
That financial component cannot be ignored. Sabathia is earning $23 million this year and $25 million next season, and his deal includes a $25 million vesting option for 2017 (with a $5 million buyout) that will be triggered as long as he does not sustain a left shoulder injury.
For his part, Sabathia said that he is not allowing the idea of leaving the rotation to cross his mind.
"Nah. That's not up to me," Sabathia said. "I just come here and try to do my job and help this team win."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.