Not even CC Sabathia's magic knee brace could bring back the pitches that Mike Olt and Gordon Beckham deposited into the leftfield stands Friday night.

After three strong starts since returning from the disabled list, Sabathia experienced a bit of a stutter on his road back to rotation reliability, allowing the two solo home runs in the seventh to give the White Sox the lead in their 5-2 win.

"I was OK, but OK wasn't good enough to win," Sabathia said. "I have to be better, especially late in the game . . . The two-seamer [to Olt] got too much plate."

Sabathia allowed four earned runs, six hits and two walks in 62/3 innings, striking out three. He also hit a batter in his first loss since Aug. 12. That decidedly mediocre line was short of the standards Sabathia has set in his unexpected resurgence since coming back from the disabled list on Sept. 9.

He was a long shot to return after hobbling off after 22/3 innings on Aug. 23, but a stabilizing brace on the degenerative right knee that needed surgery last year has, at least for now, become the balm the Yankees have been hoping for.

He no longer faces the possibility of pain with every pitch and, before Friday night's outing, that meant a 1.04 ERA in three starts since his return.

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"I think it's just the confidence" that the brace gives him, Sabathia said. "I can go through my delivery and not feel pain . . . Hopefully I can keep it going."

While the lefthander showed sparks of dominance -- he retired the side on eight pitches in the first inning -- he weaved his way in and out of trouble in the second, third and fourth. Sabathia limited the damage, though.

He allowed an RBI double to Alexei Ramirez in the second but escaped a bases-loaded jam. He allowed a run in the third on Avisail Garcia's two-out single and looked primed to give up more in the fourth, when a walk and Chase Headley's error put runners at the corners with one out. Sabathia didn't budge, though, and his 2-and-2 changeup to Beckham produced an inning-ending double play.

Sabathia threw 99 pitches, 62 for strikes, including two very bad ones in the seventh. His 2-and-1, 91-mph fastball to Olt ended up smacking the railing of the second deck in left. Two batters later, Beckham lined a 1-and-2 sinker to left for a 4-2 lead.

"I thought he threw a pretty good game," Joe Girardi said. "He made a couple of mistakes late with his fastball . . . He just missed his spot."