Sabathia the star as Yankees finish off a sweep of his former team
"He was really, really good today, and we needed that nine innings, because we didn't want to use David (Robertson) or Joba today, and I didn't really want to use Mo even though I would've," manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "Just a great performance by CC."
Sabathia was dominant early, retiring 14 in a row and 16 of the first 17 after the Yankees gave him a 6-0 lead after two innings, but the lefty ran into a little trouble in the sixth. The Indians got three singles -- one an infield hit, one a poke through a vacated hole on a hit and run, and one a smash off Mark Teixeira's glove -- but he held the Tribe to just two runs by getting Nick Swisher to hit into a fielder's choice and striking out Mark Reynolds.
"You're just trying to make pitches, whether they're hit hard or not," Sabathia said of that sixth. "They scored a couple runs, and especially with a lead like that, you want to try to regroup and go back out and get some zeroes after they score some runs."
The ace didn't quite do that right away, as he gave up a single and a two-run homer to Yan Gomes in the seventh on what he said was a "misplaced fastball," but then settled down to retire seven of the final eight in going the distance.
"(The complete game) means a lot, especially the way our bullpen has been taxed," Sabathia said. "They've been the strength of our team and those guys have bailed me out this year, so to be able to give them a rest going into the next series is big."
And, even though he was over 100 pitches after eight innings, there was no doubt it was the lefty's game to finish. Girardi said he told Sabathia to "go do what you've done so many times here and finish it," and his ace responded with a 1-2-3 ninth.
"No doubt, when you get that close, you want to finish," Sabathia said. "Once you get into the game and you're in a groove, after 60 or 70 pitches it's all the same. I was feeling good today and was able to keep my delivery together."
Beyond giving his team a sweep of the Tribe, Sabathia has also given Yankees fans another reason to believe he will, as always, heat up as the weather does. Sabathia has now had two strong starts in a row, and even with his rough night in Tampa two Sundays ago, has seen his strikeout rate and velocity both go up in the last few weeks.
"Yeah, I feel a lot better, just in throwing on the side I've been more consistent in throwing the ball where I want," Sabathia said, "so hopefully I can just keep building and get better."
And, as the skipper noted, with the Yankees heading into the middle third of the schedule, getting his ace going will only help the team as they fight to reclaim first place in the AL East.
"That's what he has kind of been -- a guy who can get on a roll -- and it's good to see," Girardi said. "The first couple runs he gave up came on some well-placed balls, and you give him some credit; (the Indians) didn't hit them hard, but they didn't swing and miss and ended up with some hits, and (CC) didn't give up a hard hit ball until the seventh inning."