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A big night for Yankees battery mates

CC Sabathia and Russell Martin shine in win
09/22/2012 12:07 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma / YESNetwork.com

The Yankees have been hoping and praying that their staff ace would come back in a big way during the most integral part of their season. The Yankees’ success in October hinges on their pitching and there is no bigger cog in that equation than CC Sabathia. Of late, Sabathia has been less than impressive and really hasn't had a good outing since Aug. 24, in a victory over Cleveland. Almost one month later and on a week's worth of rest, Sabathia pitched what may go down as his best start of 2012.

Right off the bat there was concern for the way Sabathia pitched in the first inning. It took him 24 pitches to get through four batters. He did strike out the side, but he walked Jonny Gomes and his velocity was only peaking at 91 MPH.

After that he settled in and settled down. He was flawless. What happened over the course of the rest of the start was vintage Sabathia. His velocity rose, his location was dead on and his slider was back in a big way. Watching him mix his pitches and keeping hitters off-balance all night was a thing of beauty. It reminded Yankees fans that they have one of the best aces in the game, and for one night, all of the talk of Sabathia possibly being injured went away.

“Being effective with his other pitches, as well, to where they couldn't sit on one pitch,” Girardi said of Sabathia's stuff. “He worked some fastballs away, as well, and that sets up a slider down and in to a right-hander.”

Russell Martin and Sabathia were on the same page all night. Martin called a wonderful game knowing exactly what was working for Sabathia and what he needed to throw to certain batters. The battery mates are once again gaining a rapport after Sabathia pitched so many games consecutively to Chris Stewart this season.

“CC was phenomenal tonight,” Martin said. “It was good to see. He had good life on his fastball. He seemed fresh tonight. I really liked what I saw from his pitches. Good slider; good changeup; good fastball.”

Unlike his previous disappointing performances, Sabathia was once again given a lead that he was able to hold. The Yankees gave him one run of support on a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly and he let it stand up.

In eight innings of work, he struck out 11 and his 113 pitches were just flat out fun to watch.

“I think just mixing,” Sabathia said when asked what worked for him. “In and out, breaking ball was good, changeup worked for us. I was able to get some misses and put ourselves in good counts and able to make pitches.”

The maximum effort did not garner a win however, because in the ninth inning, A's pinch-hitter Brandon Moss blasted a solo home run off Yankees closer Rafael Soriano, tying the game. The blown save for Soriano was only his fourth of the season in 46 save opportunities.

It was a tough no-decision for Sabathia. As Girardi said of him after the game, “Tonight may have been maybe the best game he pitched all year.”

The silver lining in all of this for the fans was the performance they witnessed. Their ace looked like an ace again, against a very good A's squad, and it couldn't have come at a bigger time. An outing like this is contagious and could carry over from start to start, spilling right over into October.

The only fitting end to Friday night's game is exactly what happened. For the second time this season, Russell Martin hit a walk-off home run and the battery-mate connection was complete.

“Russell's been a clutch player for a good part of his career,” Girardi said. “It's been in big moments; it's been in playoff spots. He's a good player, has power, and we know he got off to a slow start in the first half, but his second half has been really good and productive for us.”

For the pitcher who desperately needed the win, to the catcher who desperately needed a big moment, it was a huge night.

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