All you need is the final pitching line to know this wasn’t quite a vintage CC Sabathia start, but it was close.
“These guys are hot as a pistol,” Alex Rodriguez said. “To come in and give us eight strong innings, Sabathia to Mo, that’s always a good recipe to winning.”
Sabathia was exactly the man the Yankees needed him to be, and there were moments when he was every bit the ace he’s capable of being. He let the first two batters reach, but limited the damage to one run with a double play. He gave up a solo home run to Josh Hamilton, his eighth of the year. When the Rangers seemed to get something going with two runs in the seventh, Sabathia responded by retiring the next five batters, who happened to be the top five in the order. All told, got 11 outs on the ground, struck out eight and at one point allowed two hits through 18 batters.
“You don’t want these guys to get the ball in the air because they are so dangerous,” Joe Girardi said. “That just tells me he had his command. When he’s getting ground balls and not getting in a lot of three-ball counts and not missing up, away from right-handed hitters, it tells me he has his command. … I thought his last four innings against the Twins, you started to see it get to CC-like. I thought maybe we’re going to get something going here. We talked about how he can be a slow starter, but I liked what I saw those last four innings against the Twins, and he just carried it over today.”
Starting pitching has been a problem for the Yankees, but this was a sign of life against a team that’s been playing like it’s the best in baseball. His fineset moment might have been his last, when Sabathia retired Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli on five pitches in the eighth inning.
“I felt good,” Sabathia said. “I felt like I was going back out. I had been pitching pretty well. I didn’t know how many pitches I had, but I felt like I had enough to go back out and try to get three more outs for us.”
• Don’t look now, but Derek Jeter is hitting .411 after his second four-hit game of the season. “I don’t think you ever anticipate anyone being this hot, but I’m going to take it,” Girardi said. “We’re going to keep playing him and we’ll give him his DH days like we’ve talked about but he just looks really good.”
• Rodriguez’s three-run homer today was his third of the season, and it stood as the difference in the game. The lead started to feel safe at that point. “That’s a big three-run homer because it kind of breaks the game open a little bit,” Girardi said. “This, as we know, is a club that can score a bunch of runs. And you need to keep padding on as the game goes along and not miss any opportunities.”
• Sabathia called his outing “so-so” because of the seventh inning. Despite the home run an inning before, Sabathia seemed to be cruising before the Rangers put together that little seventh-inning rally. “If I make two pitches, I have a good chance of getting out of that inning without any runs,” Sabathia said. “It’s a little disappointing, but I was just glad I was able to get out without having a big inning.”
• Girardi on the decision to let Sabathia stay in to face the heart of the order in the eighth: “He had been good against Michael Young. He had been good against Napoli. I was going to go hitter by hitter at that point. And he threw a bunch of outstanding pitches in the eighth inning, and I didn’t have to bring anyone in.”
• The Yankees have now won four in a row, and they’ve won 10 of 13 since that three-game sweep to open the season. “You want to play better,” Girardi said. “It all starts with starting pitching. We’ve gotten some better performances. It starts with that, but you’re playing good teams. You’re going to have to beat these teams if you want to make any noise this year.”
• Jack Curry reported today that the Rays are expected to sign Hideki Matsui to a minor league deal. Another minor league signing with much looser ties to the Yankees: The Orioles are reportedly set to sign Bill Hall, who was in camp with the Yankees this spring.
• Finally, a quick heads up that I’ll be hosting a chat at noon on Wednesday. We were going to try to do it on the off day, but I’m not sure I trust the airplane Internet service to work well enough. So, Wednesday at noon eastern time. Stop by if you can.
Associated Press photos