CC Sabathia has gone winless more than five weeks, though that drought could have ended if not for one of the uneasy ninth innings which have become an unexpected regular occurrence for the New York Yankees' bullpen of late.
He seeks another solid outing Tuesday night against the visiting Los Angeles Angels, who will send Jason Vargas to the mound for the first time in nearly two months.
On Wednesday, Sabathia (9-10, 4.73 ERA) was in line for his first win since July 3, but Mariano Rivera blew a one-run lead in the ninth before the Yankees fell to the Chicago White Sox 6-5 in 12 innings.
The left-hander gave up three runs in 7 1-3 innings but struck out only one, the first time since July 11, 2010, in a win over Seattle he finished with fewer than two strikeouts - a stretch of 100 starts.
Sabathia had given up at least five runs in each of his previous four starts and is 0-3 with a 8.33 ERA over his last five. He's never finished with an ERA worse than the 4.39 mark his rookie year with Cleveland in 2001, and his 25 homers allowed already are a career high.
"It's a tough situation," Sabathia said. "Hopefully (Wednesday's good start) will help me out."
He pitched well against the Angels on June 16, giving up two runs in eight innings of a 6-5 victory. Sabathia is 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA in his last seven starts versus Los Angeles, which mounted a ninth-inning rally before falling 2-1 in Monday's series opener.
Rivera, whose blown save in Sabathia's start was the first of a career-high three straight, watched that Angels rally as manager Joe Girardi first went to Boone Logan before David Robertson earned the save.
Josh Hamilton hit a bloop RBI double for Los Angeles' only run, which was charged to Logan.
''Mo's never going to back out on a situation. Never,'' Girardi said. "You have to manage a player. Sometimes they just need a day no matter if they want to go out there a lot.''
Curtis Granderson, hitting .226 in 10 games since coming off the disabled list, hit a seventh-inning solo homer that proved to be the difference for the Yankees (60-57), who have won three of four.
''I'm getting there,'' said Granderson, who has 11 homers in his last 16 games against the Angels and is 5 for 12 versus Vargas (6-4, 3.65).
The Angels (53-64) have lost six of eight and will look to get back on track with help from the left-hander, who was sidelined with a blood clot in his left armpit that required surgery. This will be his first start since June 17, when he gave up two runs and struck out a season-high nine in seven innings of an 11-3 win over Seattle.
Vargas gave up four runs and walked three in 4 2-3 innings of a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday and threw a bullpen session Sunday.
"If Jason is ready, we want to get him folded into the rotation as quickly as we can," manager Mike Scioscia told the team's official website.
Vargas went 5-1 with a 3.06 ERA in his last seven starts before going on the DL. He's never beaten the Yankees, though, going 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA in six outings.
New York has won seven of the last nine meetings at Yankee Stadium.