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Sabathia strong in final tune-up as Yankees top Pirates, 4-2

Lefty goes four scoreless innings in last spring start
03/27/2014 4:05 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

CC Sabathia went four scoreless innings in his final spring start.(AP)
CC Sabathia threw four scoreless innings in his final spring tune-up Thursday, and the Yankees' early offensive outburst was enough to hold off the Pirates, 4-2, at McKechnie Field in Bradenton.

The Yankees' final road game of the spring was Sabathia's last chance to prepare for Opening Day, but he already looks in fine form; the lefty needed only 45 pitches in his four frames, allowed just three hits and running his scoreless innings streak to 17.

Surely, it helped that Sabathia had a lead before he took the mound. Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a single, and after moving to third on an Eduardo Nunez single, Ichiro scored on a Mark Teixeira groundout to make it 1-0 - and two batters later, Zoilo Almonte singled home Nunez to make it 2-0 before CC even toed the rubber.

The Yankees had scoring opportunities in each of the first four innings, but wouldn't get on the board again until a two-out rally in the fourth doubled their lead. Adonis Garcia doubled to start it, and Ichiro followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0; Ichiro then moved to second on a wild pitch, and Nunez added an RBI single of his own to push the lead to 4-0.

Behind Sabathia, five of the pitchers competing for the final bullpen spots all made an appearance, with all but one pitching well; Dellin Betances (one hit, one strikeout in the fifth), Vidal Nuno (two K's in a perfect sixth), and Adam Warren (two hits but no runs in the seventh) all kept Pittsburgh off the board, but the Pirates finally got to David Phelps for two runs in the eighth.

In that eighth, four of the five batters Phelps faced reached, with the Pirates loading the bases with no outs on a single, a double, and a walk. Phelps got Drew Maggi to ground into a 6-4-3 double play that scored Jarek Cunningham to make it 4-1, but Gift Ngoepe then followed with an RBI triple that made it 4-2 and chased the right-hander.

Phelps and the Yankees were spared further damage, however, as Cesar Cabral got Mel Rojas Jr. to ground out to end the eighth and then worked around a one-out single in the ninth by striking out Wily Garcia and Cunningham to end the game.

Offensively, the Yankees got their four runs on 12 hits, all of which came from five players; Almonte was 3-for-3, Ichiro and Nunez both went 3-for-4, Garcia was 2-for-3, and Jose Pirela's ninth-inning single ended the hit parade.

Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte, who are battling Nunez and Zelous Wheeler for the two backup infield spots, were a combined 0-for-8, but really showcased themselves with some great defense; that duo helped turn two of the Yankees' four double plays - including a highlight-reel 6-4-3 twin killing in the third - and Anna had a pair of other great plays, being the pivot man in a 3-6-1 double play in the seventh and salvaging a force play out of a hard hit smash in the third.

With the win, the Yankees improve to 16-12-2 in the Grapefruit League and 17-12-2 on the spring overall. Just two games remain on the spring slate, both of which will come at Steinbrenner Field against the Miami Marlins; Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka will both pitch in a 7:05 p.m. start on Friday night, and Ivan Nova will be on the mound when the Legend Series foes close out the spring Saturday at 1 p.m. on YES.

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