It’s not that CC Sabathia had pitching poorly. It’s just that, while every other piece of the Yankees rotation had finding new heights these past four weeks, Sabathia had been steady. His ability to grind through without his best stuff is one of his strengths, but he’s also capable of nights like this one.
“It feels good, especially after the last couple starts, any type of a pick me up,” Sabathia said. “You’re watching everybody have good starts. We all pull for each other, and push each other, so you don’t want to be the guy to mess that up.”
Sabathia’s first complete game of the season wasn’t perfect, but it was awfully good. After Michael Bourn tripled to start the game, Sabathia retired seven in a row. Then he retired another seven in a row after Bourn singled in a run in the top of the fifth. Four of his final six outs were strikeouts.
“I thought he had his sinker tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “He got a lot of groundball outs tonight, and that’s key for him. Through his, what we would call struggles — most guys would probably be happy with what he’s doing — he hasn’t had a consistent sinker, and I thought tonight it’s been as consistent as its been. … I could sense he was a little bit frustrated. It’s a great start for him.”
Sabathia credited his between-starts bullpen with Larry Rothschild, where the Yankees pitching coach tweaked his delivery to keep the ball from cutting — “Just not getting through my front side and finishing pitches,” Sabathia said — and the difference was big. Catcher Chris Stewart said this was the best Sabathia’s two-seamer has been all season.
“Any pitcher, every time he’s gets the ball and goes out there on the mound, he’s going to try to be as dominant as he can be,” Stewart said. “He wants to be the No. 1 guy. When you’ve got five guys doing that, it’s really fun. It’s a fun run we’re on right now. … Usually, you’re glad with one, two, or three. We’ve got four and five dominating. There’s really no ace right now. They’re all five aces.”
• The Yankees have won 10 in a row for the first time since 2005. This is the first time in franchise history that they’ve won five straight games against teams with winning records. “I don’t think you’re ever satisfied,” Girardi said. “I think when you become satisfied you can go backwards. Guys always feel that they can do more, that’s the bottom line. I’m happy with the way we’re playing. We’re finding ways. You look at the big hits we had tonight and the big hits we had on the road trip, we’re doing a good job.”
• Braves starter Mike Minor shutdown the Yankees last week in Atlanta, and he had a no-hitter through four innings tonight. Alex Rodriguez broke that up with a leadoff single that kicked off a three-run first. “You get that leadoff guy on, it kind of gives you a little boost,” Russell Martin said.
• The big hit of the night belonged to Derek Jeter — more on that in just a bit — but the first big hit was Martin’s RBI double on a 3-0 pitch. Girardi gave Martin the green light to swing away. “Typically I don’t like swinging 3-0,” Martin said. “But in that situation, I felt like it might be the best pitch to swing at the whole game. I was just aggressive right there.”
• Three batters later it was Jeter at the plate with two outs, a full count and the bases loaded. That was the loudest feeling of anticipation that I can remember at Yankee Stadium this season, and Jeter came through with his go-ahead single up the middle. He had three RBI to match a season high. “I hit it where they weren’t, that’s pretty much it,” Jeter said. “The first time, it was 3-2 and the pitch I hit was actually a ball and off the plate, but it was too close to take. Fortunately it found a hole, and the same with the next time up. Sometimes you hit balls well and they catch it, sometimes you find holes. I was fortunate to find some holes today.”
• Martin on Jeter’s go-ahead, two-run single: “That’s Jeet. He’s never going to give you an at-bat. He never quits, and he has an ability to fight tough pitches off, and he got back to a 3-2 count and just put the barrel on the ball.”
• Mark Teixeira hit his 12th homer of the season and Robinson Cano hit his 13th. Cano’s was his second in as many days, and he has 10 home runs in his past 28 games (after hitting three inhis first 38 games).
• Terrific defense today, especially from the infielders, each one of whom had at least one play that stood out. Jeter’s diving play to end the seventh was probably the biggest and most memorable. “Getting the ground balls and these guys catching them and making outs helped out,” Sabathia said.
• Sabathia had 12 groundball outs.
• Sabathia said the difference tonight was more about consistency than anything else. His stuff wasn’t overwhelming better. “Just more consistent,” he said. “I felt that way this week in the bullpen and playing catch. I had a pretty good idea, and I felt pretty good. They were hacking early, and it got me in a little bit of a rhythm.”
• This was the Yankees 22nd comeback win of the season. … They’re 17-6 in series openers. … The Yankees have matched a season-high with four straight wins at home. … They’re 16-5 in an opponent’s first game at the current Yankee Stadium (the Braves had never played here before).
• Sabathia and Ivan Nova were the first two American League pitchers to reach nine wins this season.
• Sabathia’s 34 career complete games are the third-most among active pitchers. Roy Halladay has 66 and Livan Hernandez has 50.
• We’ll give Girardi the last word, talking about the 10-game winning streak: “It’s not easy to do in this game because you play a lot of good teams during your streaks, and I think with all that’s went on in baseball with all the revenue sharing and all they try to do, I think there’s parity in baseball. Our guys have just really done a great job of finding ways to win games. Some of them have looked pretty bleak at times. You go back to the one in Atlanta when we had nothing going on in that game and then we find a way, Alex hits the big grand slam. I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Associated Press photos