Joe Girardi said he was “pleasantly surprised.” CC Sabathia didn’t seem surprised at all.
“I really cut it loose in the bullpen before the game to see how it was going to react,” Sabathia said. “And it felt really good.”
In his first start in more than two weeks, the Yankees ace was positively dominant. He gave the Yankees 7.1 innings of one-run baseball. He also gave them a two-run win that snapped a three-game losing streak and let them extend their lead in the American League East.
“We got our boy back, we got our horse,” Nick Swisher said. “I heard you guys asking Russ if it surprised him how he pitched today. It might have surprised him. It didn’t surprise me. This guy’s been doing it his whole career. Coming back to a place that he used to call home, I definitely think he wanted to pick up a win today, and it was nice to be able to give it to him.”
Russell Martin didn’t exactly say he was surprised, more that he was impressed that a pitcher could come off the disabled list — back from an elbow injury, no less — and deliver an outing like this one. If he were cleared for more than 100 pitches, Sabathia might very well have pitched through the eighth, if not the ninth. He left the bases loaded in the fifth, stranded runners at the corners in the sixth, and sent the side down in order in the seventh after Swisher had homered to put the Yankees in front.
The Yankees ace was back, no question.
“It was like he hadn’t even missed any time,” Derek Jeter said. “He threw strikes, worked quick. They didn’t get much of anything going off of him. He did what he’s always done. … I haven’t asked him how he felt, but it looked like he felt good. That’s the most important thing. Any time you have someone coming off the disabled list, the results are secondary. You want to make sure he feels good. He looked good.”
Of course, this game might have been all about something entirely different had Jeter not waved off medical attention and marched to first base after that 92-mph fastball hit him in the bill of the helmet. The helmet, by the way, was cracked.
“It scared me,” Girardi said. “You worry that it’s the side of the head, and you’re looking a lot of times at a concussion, or God forbid, something worse. So when I got out there and saw it hit the bill of his cap, it’s a sigh of relief. He was in a hurry to get us out of there, which is vintage Derek. But we had to be sure that he was okay.(He was saying) ‘I’m okay. I’m okay,’ but Jeet’s said that a lot, when he’s limping, or something’s broken. So when you get hit in the head, there’s a lot of concern there.”
Jeter said he never thought the pitch was intentional, but a young pitcher was trying to go up and in, and that’s a dangerous pitch. Better not miss the spot, and Jeter let Corey Kluber hear about it a little bit.
“Of course you’re angry,” Jeter said. “No one wants to get hit in the head. It’s kind of a dangerous area, so of course I was upset. It’s over with, it’s done with, it’s history now.”
Swisher’s take from the on-deck circle: “I thought he took it like a champ,” Swisher said. “Super scary. I heard it and kind of closed my eyes real quick because I thought he was going down, and then he was just kind of standing there and I was like, what a champ. That didn’t faze him at all.”
• Swisher went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and that game-winning homer in the seventh. He nearly had another homer in the ninth. In 16 games since moving into the second spot in the order, Swisher is hitting .333 with 15 runs, five homers and 17 RBI. “I feel like I’m just trying to go up there and have quality at bats,” Swisher said. “You feel like you’re really into the game in that spot, you know. Jeet’s been getting on base a lot lately. Been hitting more home runs lately, too. But in situations like that you’re just trying to move him over or drive him in, one of the two, and I been feeling pretty good so I’m just trying to go out there and just do my thing.”
• Both Girardi and Jeter said there are no tests scheduled for Jeter. The ball primarily hit the bill of the helmet — Jeter said it still hurt — and he really seemed fine after the game. “I don’t know if he’ll need to do a test, just because it hit the side of the bill,” Girardi said. “It didn’t hit the head. That’s something that Stevie will have to determine.”
• When did Martin know Sabathia had his usual command tonight? “From the bullpen,” Martin said. “He looked really smooth in the bullpen and he had control and command of all his pitches. Normally when he does that, he’s going to pitch a good game and that’s what he did today.”
• Speaking of Martin, on that wild pitch in the ninth — the one that put runners at second and third instead of runners at the corners — he actually called for Rafael Soriano to fake a pickoff to third and then look to first. But Soriano missed the sign and threw a slider. Martin had no idea what was coming — didn’t know anything was coming until Soriano lifted his leg — and did a nice job to keep the runner from scoring from third. “He said he never got that call all year,” Martin said. “When he stepped off the first time, I should have went and talked to him. That’s my fault.”
• Soriano made things interesting in the ninth, but he finished off his 32nd save of the season. “We hadn’t had an opportunity to put him in a game (recently),” Girardi said. “Sometimes You worry about guys being a little bit rusty, and maybe he’s a little bit rusty. But he found a way.”
• Fun times from Sabathia, who claimed that a pitch simply got away from him when he nearly hit Asdrubal Cabrera. He then tried to backup that statement by saying his ball was cutting occasionally, and that pitch “cut a lot.” No one was buying it, but at least he said all the right things.
• As for the home run that Cabrera hit: “It was a two-seamer,” Sabathia said. “But it was up. First at-bat he had fouled that pitch straight back. Same pitch, so he was right on it and put a good swing on it.”
• We’ll give the final word to Girardi: “It was an important game, especially with your ace on the mound. I think it’s important to turn around this road trip. We had some frustrating losses in Chicago. We lost the last one 2-1, Hughesy pitches a real good game, and you need a win.”
Associated Press photos