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CC Sabathia finds a groove as Yankees keep pace in wild-card chase

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throws

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia throws against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016, in Seattle. Credit: AP / Ted S. Warren

SEATTLE — Six days earlier, CC Sabathia had as strange an outing as any Yankees starter this season.

He struck out 12 Blue Jays but, hurt by a couple of his own mistakes and a slew more behind him in the field, the lefthander allowed seven earned runs in a 7-4 loss.

Against a similarly loaded lineup Tuesday night, Sabathia left little to chance.

Once again deploying an array of darting sliders and cutters and allowing few hard-hit balls, Sabathia turned in a seven-inning gem in a 5-1 victory over the Mariners in front of 24,628 at Safeco Field.

“He did what he wanted tonight with the baseball,” catcher Brian McCann said.

The Yankees (64-61) stayed five games out of the second AL wild-card spot, but did close ground on the Mariners (67-58), one of the teams ahead of them for that slot.

Sabathia, with a 6.78 ERA in his previous 11 starts, allowed one run and three hits against a team that came in ranked third in the AL in homers with 175, trailing Baltimore (195) and Toronto (180).

The 36-year-old struck out seven and walked one in improving to 8-10 with a 4.33 ERA.

“I know what his ERA is but I’m going to tell you, he’s pitched a lot better than that ERA,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s been frustrating [at times] for him.”

Said Sabathia: “It feels good. We’re trying to win every game and to be a part of that feels good. I think I kept them off balance. We were working the ball in and out really well.”

For one of the rare times in the last 2 1⁄2 weeks, rookie Gary Sanchez didn’t lead the way on offense, though he wasn’t entirely shut down, either, going 1-for-4 with a walk at DH.

Instead, Jacoby Ellsbury led the way, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth that broke a 1-1 tie, assisted by Ronald Torreyes, who went 3-for-4 with a run batted in. Torreyes doubled home a run in the second inning and doubled and scored on Ellsbury’s homer in the fifth.

Mark Teixeira doubled and scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 4-1.

“When I get an opportunity to play, it’s exciting,” said Torreyes, who has had just 90 at-bats this season. “If I can help, even better.”

Mariners righthanded starter Taijuan Walker (4-8), called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Tacoma, allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits in 5 2⁄3 innings to take the loss.

Sabathia rarely saw trouble Tuesday night and got stronger as the game progressed. After walking Mike Zunino, whose three-run homer put the Mariners ahead for good Monday night, to lead off the fifth, Sabathia retired the last nine he faced.

Lefthander Tommy Layne pitched a perfect eighth and, after Ellsbury reached on a two-base error and scored on a Didi Gregorius double in the ninth to make it 5-1 and a non-save situation, Dellin Betances allowed a two-out single to Robinson Cano in the bottom half, but struck out Nelson Cruz to end it.

Even the Mariners’ lone run came without a hard-hit ball.

After Judge chased down a leadoff fly ball down the rightfield line by Adam Lind for the first out of the third, the rookie rightfielder could not quite catch up with a slightly longer drive down the line by Leonys Martin. The ball took a big hop into the corner and Judge was slow to get to it, allowing Martin to pull into third with a triple. Ketel Marte, the No. 9 hitter, with the infield in, then banged a 2-and-2 pitch back up the middle for an RBI single that tied it at 1.

“I feel like he’s been pitching great all year,” McCann said. “If you go back and dissect some of those starts, it’s been a seeing-eye single here, a bloop there. It’s been coming out good pretty much all season.”


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