It is just two starts.

And as Joe Girardi often says when things aren't going well for one of his players, "I don't make too much'' of one or two games. But when it comes to CC Sabathia, any positive news -- and there hasn't been much of it this season -- shouldn't be dismissed.

There was plenty on the positive front Sunday at the Stadium. The 6-7 lefthander was terrific for six innings, and Mark Teixeira provided a tiebreaking, two-out homer in the eighth, giving the Yankees a 2-1 victory over the Mariners.

"I thought stuffwise, it's the best we've seen all year,'' Alex Rodriguez said of Sabathia. "I thought he had a really good fastball, and he's throwing three versions of his fastball. He's also introduced a cutter. I think that cutter is going to be extremely important, especially against righties.''

Sabathia allowed one run, six hits and a walk and struck out seven, after holding the A's to two runs in 51/3 innings in his previous start. Girardi said he will be an important factor in the second half as the Yankees (50-41) try to capture the AL East, which they lead by four games over the Orioles.

Girardi said that before the All-Star break, he relayed that message in a sit-down with Sabathia, who went 4-8 with a 5.47 ERA in the first half.

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"I told CC that he's the one that's been through this,'' Girardi said of a division race. "And we need him to be big for us.''

Sabathia, who turns 35 Tuesday, has been mostly dreadful the last three seasons, often beating himself up verbally after rough outings.

"Obviously, my first half was the worst of my career,'' said Sabathia, whose security in the rotation has been discussed often. "But I'm not going to come in here and tell you I suck and be negative like I was the last couple of years. I'm just trying to go out and help this team, and I still think I can.''

It is not an overstatement to say Sabathia is beloved in the Yankees' clubhouse, and his good fortune of late, even though it is just two starts, was met enthusiastically. Especially given the competition, which Sunday was Felix Hernandez. The Mariners' ace came in 11-5 with a 2.84 ERA, and Chase Headley called him "if not the best pitcher in the world, one of the best pitchers in the world.''

King Felix allowed one run, five hits and three walks and struck out five in six innings.

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"CC was great,'' said Teixeira, whose 23rd homer came off Fernando Rodney. "He matched one of the best pitchers in baseball pitch for pitch. CC rose to the occasion today.''

In the fifth, Austin Jackson, a former Yankee, singled in Jesus Montero, also a former Yankee, to make it 1-0 and put runners at the corners with one out. But a pumped-up Sabathia, looking very much like his former self, kept it there, striking out Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano.

"Everybody loves him, he's such a great teammate, it's great to see him throw the ball the way he's capable of,'' Headley said. "It was good stuff today. It wasn't he was out there tricking guys, he was throwing the ball by guys. I thought he really controlled the game. It's a great sign if he can continue to do that.''