CC Sabathia returns to dominant form for Yankees

CC Sabathia delivers a pitch during a game

CC Sabathia delivers a pitch during a game against the Minnesota Twins. (Sept. 26, 2012) (Credit: AP)

MINNEAPOLIS

One hundred nineteen pitches, eight innings and 10 strikeouts. That was the official count for CC Sabathia, who did what he usually does to the Twins in Wednesday's 8-2 victory at Target Field.

Oh, and here's one more pertinent statistic: zero, as in the number of questions Sabathia has left to answer after consecutive dominant performances against the A's and Twins.

Velocity. Location. Stamina. Check, check and check. As soon as the Yankees handed Sabathia a 6-1 lead by batting around in the third inning, this game was over. And if Minnesota wasn't immediately aware of it, they learned soon enough when he struck out the next four straight with a total of 13 pitches.

"After that," catcher Chris Stewart said of the Yankees' outburst, "he was light's out."

Beating the Twins is nothing new. Sabathia improved to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last 11 meetings with them, including the playoffs. But when Wednesday's win -- his first since Aug. 24 -- is paired up with last Friday's eight-inning shutdown of the A's, it's enough evidence to show that the Yankees are in the clear with Sabathia.

"I've never been a guy that didn't believe in CC," Joe Girardi said. "He just wasn't able to get on that roll. It's nice to see him put a couple back-to-back."

Two different stints on the disabled list -- first with a groin strain and later with elbow inflammation -- suggested that the normally indefatigable Sabathia was beginning to show signs of his own mortality. And if that was the case with Sabathia, the same thing could be said about the Yankees.

Now, they both have a lot less to worry about. All along, Sabathia has insisted he was fine, even after bumpy losses to the Orioles and Rays in consecutive starts earlier this month. But even the usually secretive Girardi admitted his ace was suffering from a velocity dip that Sept. 8 night at Camden Yards.

That was not much of a concern Wednesday. Sabathia peaked in the 91-93 mph range, and before getting Ryan Doumit to pop up a slider to end the eighth inning, he threw a pair of 93-mph fastballs during that same at-bat. When asked about the perceived bump, however, Sabathia dismissed it.

"I think it's the same as when everyone made a big deal out of it in Baltimore," Sabathia said. "I just have to make pitches and not overthrow."

So what's the difference now? It's seems to require much less effort for Sabathia, who again worked both sides of the plate with ease, mixing in a sharp-breaking slider, and in doing so, convinced Girardi he could be stretched a little longer than was to be expected with an 8-2 lead.

Not that throwing 119 pitches is ever considered leisurely. But Sabathia was fine shouldering the load if it meant giving the bullpen some relief of its own.

"I'm grinding," Sabathia said. "I'm just trying to give everyone as much time off as possible. I know the bullpen has been taxed lately."

As badly as the Yankees need wins this week, resting up the relievers is a close second, as Boone Logan so dramatically expressed in Tuesday night's implosion. That's going to be an ongoing concern, and Girardi couldn't help himself from getting David Robertson up in the eighth inning Wednesday as well.

But with so many other things to fret over -- from the status of Mark Teixeira's calf to Derek Jeter's ankle to Alex Rodriguez's foot -- the Yankees can cross one concern off their list. After watching Sabathia subdue the Twins, and again look like the team's No. 1 starter should look, the manager was able to draw a line through the name of his ace.

"This is what he can do," Girardi said. "He can string a bunch of good ones together. If there's a time to do it, now's the time."

The Yankees waited long enough -- and even wondered when or if it might happen this season. Sabathia answered that lingering question Wednesday for the last time.

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