That picture above is CC Sabathia walking off the mound at the end of a one-run seventh inning. In its own way, that picture tells the story of how good Sabathia was tonight.
“When you have two aces out there, you just want to give them a few runs,” Mark Teixeira said. “And once we got that lead, you could just tell (Sabathia) wasn’t going to give it up. He was upset he gave up one run. That’s how good he was tonight. He was pretty dominant.”
Ten strikeouts, no walks and one run against the first-place team in the American League East. Sabathia got all but five outs tonight, snapped a five-game losing streak, and outpitched Jon Lester. Five days ago, we were wondering whether age, surgery and a diminished fastball had robbed Sabathia’s ability to be a legitimate top-of-the-rotation starter. Tonight, he was disappointed to give up a single run.
“It’s kind of what we’re used to seeing from CC, and he gave it to us,” Girardi said.
Sabathia’s fastball velocity was up a little bit — “I haven’t seen any 94s until tonight,” Girardi said. “And there were a lot of 92s to 94s” — but of course, Sabathia dismissed his increased velocity just as quickly as he dismissed his diminished velocity earlier this season.
“When I was younger, I did (care about velocity),” he said. “I thought that was the way I was getting guys out. As I got older, I know it’s more location than it is velocity. … I didn’t feel that much different than I did (giving up seven runs) in Tampa, but just being aggressive in the strike zone and attacking guys, that was the biggest difference.”
It obviously helped that his fastball was a little harder and his slider was a little sharper, but Sabathia said that sharpness might have been an effect, not a cause. By simply being aggressive, Sabathia said, his stuff became sharper and more effective. There were no significant mechanical changes in his bullpens, and no drastic changes in his game plan. Sabathia was just … better.
“I mean, he’s a gamer,” Chris Stewart said. “He’s always trying to throw the best game possible. When he goes out there, he’s trying to shut down the offense.”
That’s what he did tonight, and you can tell by the way he reacted to the one blemish in an otherwise overwhelming and much-needed win.
• The Yankees got on the board with a two-run second inning, which started with a walk in Teixeira’s first plate appearance. “It’s going to take a few days knocking some rust off,” Teixeira said. “Great first at bat, getting to run around the bases and score a run. That really breaks you in a little bit, and you want to feel like you’re helping the team out as soon as you get out there. … I’d rather walk and win than hit a home run and lose.”
• Next time the Yankees scored was in the fifth, when Kevin Youkilis had an RBI single, his first hit since coming off the disabled list. “The pitching is way better here (than in extended spring),” Youkilis said. “We’ll get our timing and all of that. … All the hits you can get, it’s always a good thing. In those situations, especially with the 3-0 lead, it gives a little more breathing room for the pitcher.”
• Teixeira said he’s not doing much postgame medical maintenance on his wrist. “The only thing I do is ice it,” he said. “We’ll probably do that for a couple more weeks, and then we’ll see how that goes.”
• Girardi said there’s a good chance Youkilis will be a DH again tomorrow and play third base on Sunday when David Adams will presumably go to the bench against a right-handed starter.
• The Yankees walked four times tonight. They hadn’t drawn a walk in three games before this. “Just having (Teixeira and Youkilis) in our lineup, seeing pitches,” Stewart said. “They’ve been around a lot. They’re going to make the pitcher work out there and with what we did early on, we made Lester throw strikes and throw a lot of pitches. We got ahead in some counts and put some runs up early.”
• Sabathia had his 36th career 10-strikeout game, and his 17th as a Yankee. He’s now tied with Al Downing for the third-most 10-strikeout games in Yankees history. His fifth-inning strikeout of David Ross was the 889th strikeout of his Yankees career, passing David Cone for sole possession of 17th place on the franchise’s all-time list.
• Did Sabathia realize he was throwing the ball harder? “I try not to look up there and see what I’m throwing,” he said. “Just try to go off the swings. I really can’t tell you because I don’t feel like I was throwing my fastball in the zone enough (in recent starts) to get swings and misses or even to get attempts. Tonight, I did. It was a lot better.”
• Hilarious response of the night came from Girardi when asked whether Sabathia was doing anything different to make his fastball so much better. “He was throwing it harder,” Girardi said.
• Vernon Wells had his first extra-base hit since May 21. … Ichiro Suzuki had his first RBI since May 10. … Mariano Rivera had his first save since blowing one at Citi Field on Tuesday. He has converted 36 consecutive save opportunities at Yankee Stadium.
• Girardi on his ejection: “I just wanted him to get help, just to ask. He said he got a good look at it. From my viewpoint, I thought he was off the bag. He was not. I was wrong. But all I wanted was to ask him to get help. They do it in games, and I don’t really understand why I got tossed. I got a little upset after he tossed me, but all I asked was, just ask. If you ask and they say he’s out, I walk away.”
• There’s also this: “I blame K-Long,” Girardi said. “K-Long told me to go out there. He said, ‘Go! Go! Go!’”
• Hitters were quite often frustrated with the low strike calls by home plate umpire Lance Barksdale. “It was consistent on both sides,” Teixeira said. “I wasn’t happy with it. None of the hitters were happy with it, but it was consistent. Lance is a very good umpire, and he was consistent for both sides.”
• Final word goes to Sabathia: “I always feel like it’s my responsibility when I’m out there to give this team a chance to win; go out and pitch well enough to try to win. With us having a tough week, getting swept by the Mets, you want to go out and have a good game. I was lucky enough to do that tonight.”
Associated Press photo