CC Sabathia tried to pass the credit to his catcher. After 7.2 shutout innings. After a career-high 13 strikeouts. After his eighth win in his past nine starts, Sabathia tried to give the credit to Francisco Cervelli’s game calling.
Not even Cervelli was buying it.
“He’s the King here,” Cervelli said. “I give the target.”
Sabathia certainly received the royal treatment when he walked off the mound in the eighth inning. He’s tied for the Major League lead in wins. He’s the first pitcher since Tom Seaver to win 11 games in each of his first 11 seasons. Today’s 13 strikeouts were the most by a Yankees starter since Roger Clemens in 2002, and the most by a Yankees lefty since David Wells in 1998. The crowd roared their appreciation through a Yankee Stadium ovation that lasted until Sabathia disappeared into the dugout.
“I always think that’s nice for a player to hear that,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not the reason I pull a guy in the middle of an inning — his pitch count just got so high — but it’s nice to hear. He’s really appreciated here, not only by us but by the fans. It’s good for him to hear.”
Girardi called today’s start “brilliant.” Cervelli said Sabathia’s breaking ball was “unbelievable.” Mark Teixeira said it was the best he’d ever seen Sabathia.
Maybe it was over-the-top analysis of a friend and a teammate, but Sabathia seems to inspire that sort of reaction. After today’s start, he was an unannounced guest at Dave Robertson’s High Socks for Hope fundraiser at the Hard Rock Cafe. He managed to dominate his former Brewers teammates, then speak highly of them in postgame interviews. He was careful to pass credit to Cervelli.
“CC could spend a week on a team and you’d fall in love with his personality,” Girardi said. “That’s the type of guy he is… He hangs out with everyone, he’s not a guy who hangs with a couple guys. He’s a guy that seems to attract people. People want to be around him, which is important, because during the course of the season, everyone goes through tough times. This is a guy you know you can count on that’s going to be the same every day and will be there for you. That’s extremely important.”
There are a lot of easy-to-like players in this game, and there are a handful of truly great players in this game. Sabathia’s managed to be both, and it showed this afternoon.
Here’s the King himself.
• Mark Teixeira laughed off the idea of career home run No. 300 being a major milestone. “Seeing what Alex did last year and then saying, ‘Oh man, I got 300. Great.’” Teixeira said. “He hit 600 last year, so it puts it in perspective. It makes you realize you’ve got a long way to go.”
• Of course, Teixeira now leads baseball with 25 home runs this season, and according to Elias he’s only the third player in baseball history to hit 25 in each of his first nine seasons, joining Eddie Matthews and Albert Pujols.
• Teixeira’s never had this many home runs before the all-star break.
• All 13 of Sabathia’s strikeouts were swinging. Why? “We just tried to follow the hitters, what they think,” Cervelli said. “Every time we think they’re looking for fastballs, we throw breaking balls, and we change a lot.”
• Sabathia’s take on the strikeouts: “Just making pitches with two strikes. Earlier this season, I was giving up a lot of 0-2 hits and 1-2 hits. Today, we made a lot of good pitches.”
• Is Sabathia anxious about whether he’ll make the all-star team? “I want to go to the Bahamas,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I pitch Tuesday, then Sunday, so the way I’m scheduled, I probably wouldn’t pitch in the game anyway.”
• Bad job by Cervelli to let the one strikeout pitch get past him. Nice job to convert it into an out anyway with a great throw to first. “I’m lucky,” Cervelli said. “That guy runs a lot, and I just grabbed the ball and throw.”
• Sergio Mitre got loose in the bullpen, mostly as a side session to get some work after not throwing in about a week. “Good to go tomorrow,” he said.
• Mitre said he hasn’t been told a specific role he’ll play. “Starters have a role, and other than Robby and Mo, everyone is just mix and match,” he said. “That’s what it looks like.”
• This was the Yankees third shutout and sixth series sweep of the season. The five-game winning streak is a season-high. The Yankees had a total of six series sweeps all last season.
• The Yankees stole four bases in a game for the sixth time this season, doubling last year’s total for four-steal games. They’ve stolen 12 straight bases without being caught.
• In his career, Cervelli is hitting .383 with two outs and runners in scoring position. “It makes me feel happy,” Cervelli said. “I’ve been working a lot with K-Long. I was struggling two weeks ago, and sometimes it’s hard, but you have to make adjustments an try to make everything simple.”
Associated Press photos