The Pirates, Orioles, Blue Jays and Reds had taken their turns roughing up CC Sabathia, who had four straight bad starts after opening the season with three straight good ones.
But the 36-year-old lefthander has been streaking in the right direction again for the Yankees, putting together his first three-start winning streak since April 2013.
The crowd of 40,218 at Yankee Stadium provided a sweet soundtrack with one out in the seventh inning on Saturday, giving Sabathia a loud ovation as he headed for the dugout in what became a 3-2 win over the A’s.
“There’s no place that you’d rather pitch well than in the Bronx,” Sabathia said after becoming the 21st major-league lefty since 1900 to make at least 10 starts in 16 seasons. “These fans have been very supportive of me the last nine years, and [Saturday] was no different.”
Sabathia allowed two runs, six hits and three walks and struck out a season-high nine in moving to 5-2 and improving his ERA to 4.42.
So after compiling a 1.47 ERA in his first three starts, he went from allowing 22 earned runs in 20 2⁄3 innings during the bad streak to giving up three earned runs in 18 innings during this good streak. Catcher Gary Sanchez said he can see more “sharpness of the pitches.”
“It’s baseball,” Sabathia said of the uneven season. “You’ve just got to keep going, stick with your routine and try to come out of whatever kind of slump you’re in.”
Sabathia gave up a single and a walk in the first but also struck out the side. In the second, there were two more Ks.
“When he’s attacking the zone, he’s filthy,” Aaron Judge said.
The A’s tied the score at 1-1 after Sabathia retired the first two batters in the sixth. Khris Davis worked a walk and scored on Ryon Healy’s double into the leftfield corner, with Healy taking third as Didi Gregorius made a wide throw home.
When Trevor Plouffe followed with a bloop to right, Starlin Castro raced back, and the ball popped out of the second baseman’s glove. But Judge, the former high school receiver/defensive end, was there to grab it out of the air.
“Yeah, football, it kind of reminded me of that a little bit,” Judge said. “But I was just glad to be there and make a play for C.”
After Matt Holliday broke up Jharel Cotton’s no-hitter with a two-out, two-run homer into the back of the Oakland bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, Josh Phegley drove a ball into the leftfield seats with one out in the seventh, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 3-2. When Adam Rosales then lined a doubled to right-center, Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with Adam Warren, who got out of the inning without further damage.
“I think it’s just getting that cutter in to the righties,” Sabathia said about the difference now. “Obviously, late in the game, right there to Phegley, I got a little lazy. That’s what was happening those four starts. Just a little reminder to get that ball in and try to get it off the hands.”