No pitcher in recent Yankees history has been as durable within games as C.C. Sabathia. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Wells — none of them had the ability to battle through tough stretches to complete eight or nine innings, start after start after start. C.C. does, and he did it again in Wednesday’s sweep-completing 6-4 win over the Indians. Since joining the Yankees, C.C. has 10 complete games in the regular-season — every other Yankee starter combined has nine. And that doesn’t include Sabathia’s gritty complete-game victory in Game 5 over the Orioles last October.
Last night, C.C. the grinder was on full display. After retiring the first 14 batters in order, Sabathia gave up two runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh, turning a 6-0 cushion into a 6-4 nailbiter. But instead of coming out of the game, C.C. recaptured his early-inning command nearly 100 pitches into his start. Other than a walk to former Yankee Nick Swisher, the Yankee ace set down the Tribe in order in the final two innings, giving Mariano Rivera the night off.
The numbers don’t back up the notion that C.C. is a second-half pitcher — he has a better ERA and more complete games before the All-Star Break than after over the last three seasons. This year, though, he appears to be gaining much-needed velocity on his fastball as the season goes on. Against Boston last Wednesday, the hefty lefty hit 94 mph for the first time all season, and his fastball was strong against Cleveland as well.
The Yankees aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot if C.C. steps up and pitches like the ace he’s supposed to be. But they are guaranteed to miss the postseason if Sabathia is merely average, so starts like last night are particularly heartening.
And ohbytheway, the win completed a three-game sweep and gave the Bombers a 4-4 record on their homestand. It doesn’t make up for the Mets’ embarrassing four-game sweep last week. But it comes close.