A rare easy win for the Bombers last night — it was only the team’s second win by more than three runs since Aug. 13, a stretch of 40 games. The Yankees jumped all over hapless Twins pitcher Brian Duensing for six runs in the third inning, including an incredible THREE HITS IN A ROW WITH RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION (the caps lock seems justified given the Yankees’ atrocious hitting with RISP this year). Handed an early 6-1 lead, C.C. Sabathia took care of the rest, shutting down the Twins over eight innings and allowing just two runs. The 8-2 win kept the Yanks 1.5 games ahead of the Orioles, who are idle Thursday.
The quality start comes on the heels of C.C.’s lights-out performance against Oakland Friday, when he shut out the A’s over eight masterful innings. It’s the first time Sabathia’s gone eight or more innings in consecutive starts since late April/early May, when he had four straight starts of eight innings and appeared ready to run away with the AL Cy Young Award.
Since then, C.C.’s been on the disabled list twice, had a stretch of four starts in a row where he blew leads and was briefly eclipsed by Hiroki Kuroda as the Yankees’ best pitcher. The DL stints — Sabathia’s first since 2006 — caused the hefty lefty to miss 4-5 scheduled starts in total in July and August. But more importantly, they kept him from establishing a long-term rhythm in the second half of the season because he couldn’t string together more than five starts in a row. So far, C.C.’s season has looked like this:
April 6 – June 24: 15 straight starts
June 25 – July 16: DL (misses 2-3 starts sandwiched around the All-Star Break)
July 17 – Aug. 8: 5 straight starts
Aug. 9 – Aug. 23 – DL (misses 2 starts)
Aug. 24 – present: 7 straight starts
Unlike a Justin Verlander or a Stephen Strasburg, C.C.’s strength is his ability to get into a rhythm over several weeks or months. When he strained his groin in June and briefly messed up his elbow in early August, C.C.’s routine was screwed, and he appeared awfully rusty after coming back in late August. The Yankees lost four straight games that he started for the first time since May 2010, and in each start Sabathia surrendered an early lead.
But last Friday’s start against the A’s — his sixth straight turn in the rotation — was vintage Sabathia. Eight scoreless innings, scattering three singles and two walks, against a potential ALDS opponent? Yes please. C.C. was jobbed out of a win when a visibly exhausted Rafa Soriano blew the save in the ninth, but anyone who saw the game saw the kind of performance the Yankees will need in the playoffs.
Yesterday’s win was less dominant but still impressive, as C.C. allowed two runs in eight innings. The ace will likely start the series opener against Boston on Monday, with an eye to an ALDS Game 1 start if the Yanks win the division. And for the first time since June, I’m legitimately excited about C.C. on the hill.
Yankees play tonight in the first of a four-game set at Toronto, with Ivan Nova (gulp) opposing the Blue Jays’ Brandon Morrow. Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira is expected to participate in a simulated game sometime this weekend. But Joe Girardi can’t give a definitive answer on when — or even if — Teix will be back. More to come tomorrow.