All of the Yankees seemed to know the number. They all knew this was win No. 20. They knew CC Sabathia was the first to get there this season. But not everyone realized the significance of this win in Sabathia’s career.
“I didn’t know this was his first time until after the game,” Derek Jeter said. “I just assumed he’d done it before. You feel good for him. Winning 20 games is not easily done. A lot of things have to go right.”
That’s true, a lot of things do have to go right, and that’s largely the reason the statistic is often dismissed and obviously flawed. But in the career of great pitchers, a 20-win season means something. One win might be a fluke. Twenty is a sign of consistency.
“Maybe after the season I can sit back and enjoy it a little bit more,” Sabathia said. “But right now I’m just thinking five days ahead to who I’m pitching against next.”
The Yankees would expect nothing else from Sabathia, and in a lot of ways, that’s what’s made him so perfect for this team. The pressure of this franchise and the weight of each moment seem to have no affect. Sabathia smiled tonight when he was asked what it meant to win 20, then he quickly said it meant no one would ask him about it any more.
The win statistic is a weird one in baseball, but it might be meaningful that on the night Sabathia became the Major’s first 20-game winner, the Yankees became the first team to win 90 games.
“Around here,” Nick Swisher said, “it’s all about the wins.”
Here’s Sabathia’s postgame.
• Robinson Cano hit his 28th home run, giving him 101 RBI for the season. Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the first trio of Yankees infielders to have 100 RBI in the same season.
• Nick Swisher said he feels like he could play the field tomorrow. After two strikeouts and a ground out, he ended his night with back-to-back hits, including a double. “It felt great man,” Swisher said. “First three at-bats I didn’t really get to run much.”
• Brett Gardner had three hits for the sixth time this season. He was one of five Yankees with multi-hit games.
• Great play by Cano going behind the bag at second for the first out of the game. Joe Girardi called it a play that might have changed the game, shutting down an early rally before it started.
• Jeremy Guthrie’s first pitch hit Derek Jeter. Guthrie hit Mark Teixeira in spring training, and hit Jorge Posada in April. In his career, Guthrie has hit 37 batters, 10 of them have been Yankees. “Too many,” Girardi said. “Just too many. I don’t really understand it and I know he likes to pitch inside, but it’s just too many.”
• Jeter, of course, first jokingly asked everyone if replays showed the ball actually hitting him this time. “He’s what do you call it? Effectively wild,” Jeter said. “I don’t think it was on purpose. I don’t why it would be.”
• Jeter had two hits, two runs and two RBI tonight. He’s looked a little better at the plate in the last week or so. “We’re making progress,” he said. “Getting toward the end, so hopefully we’ll keep making strides in the right direction.”
• Robert Andino is a light-hitting Orioles infielder who’s played in six major league games this season. He had a home run on Friday and came a triple short of the cycle tonight. He was the only guy to have an extra-base hit off Sabathia. What is it John Sterling says?
• A win tomorrow would give the Yankees four wins in the last five games of this nightmarish road trip. Still not a great trip, but that would take away some of the sting heading into the Rays series. “It was tough the first two cities we went to and we have a chance to turn it around,” Girardi said. “Tomorrow’s a big day for us because Andy’s going. We’d like him pitch well and come out of it healthy. That would be a big plus.”
Associated Press photos of Sabathia, Rodriguez with Cano, and Jeter