When Joe Girardi stepped out of the dugout in the ninth inning Friday night, CC Sabathia figured he was a goner. Three outs away from a complete game he desperately wanted, Sabathia anxiously awaited the manager's arrival. But he didn't need to worry. "Let's get through this inning," Girardi said. "Let's go."
With his message delivered, Girardi departed and Sabathia took care of business, mowing down the Mariners on seven pitches to finish a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in the Yankees' 6-3 victory at the Stadium.
Only one Mariner reached base through the first 23 batters, as Casper Wells hit a fourth-inning homer. The only other blemishes were Miguel Olivo's one-out double in the eighth and Dustin Ackley's two-run homer in the ninth, which prompted Girardi's visit. It was the fewest hits Sabathia had allowed since July 26, 2011, when he gave up one in seven innings vs. Seattle.
"Every time you go out, you feel like you're going to go out and try to dominate," Sabathia said. "Today was just the day."
It didn't start out that way. He said he "threw a horrible bullpen" before the game and even joked to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, "You should probably get somebody up." Adding to the concern, Russell Martin -- not Chris Stewart -- was behind the plate for Sabathia for the first time since April 11.
"I wanted to make sure he had a good start," Martin said, "because if he didn't, I knew there would be stories about it."
No worries on that front. With his second complete game this season -- the other was June 18 against the Braves -- Sabathia became one of four pitchers since 1900 to earn at least 11 wins in each of his first 12 seasons, joining Don Sutton (first 17 seasons), Eddie Plank (16) and Tom Seaver (13). Sabathia needed only 103 pitches, the fewest by a Yankee in a nine-inning complete game since Bartolo Colon's 103-pitch effort on May 30, 2011.
Before the game, Girardi was asked if Sabathia's conditioning was becoming more of a concern. The husky lefthander allowed a season-high six runs in his previous start against Boston. A year ago, he had a 4.68 ERA in August and opponents batted .331 with a .568 slugging percentage against him. Friday night's dominance, however, helped dispel any percolating concern about a late-season fate.
"I'm not going to worry about CC too much. I'm not," Girardi said. "Because I know who he is and I know what he's done and I believe it's in there all the time."
Actually, Sabathia's career .778 winning percentage (42-12) for August is his best of any month. That's the pitcher who showed up for his eighth straight win over Seattle dating to 2009, with a 1.20 ERA in that stretch.
"You always want a game like this," Sabathia said. "Just to go out and throw the ball well and have everything working. Last year was last year. I usually feel good at the end of the year."
With a revamped lineup that had Curtis Granderson leading off and Derek Jeter batting second, the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the third on Granderson's two-run single. Eric Chavez hit a two-run homer that bounced off the top of the wall in the sixth.
The Bronx night took on some Flushing flavor in the seventh when former Mets washout Oliver Perez allowed RBI singles to Robinson Cano and Raul Ibañez that put the Yankees ahead 6-1.
That provided a cushion for Sabathia that helped him get through the ninth after Girardi's pep talk. "When you hear the bullpen guys thank you for the day off," Sabathia said, "that feels pretty good."