CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 26, 2016 in Houston.Credit: Getty Images/Bob Levey
HOUSTON — Analyzing the Yankees’ recent climb to the fringe of mediocrity, manager Joe Girardi said his starting pitchers had “gotten on a roll.” The exception was CC Sabathia, who had allowed 29 earned runs in his previous six starts while going 0-4.
But Sabathia joined the party Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, allowing only two runs and four hits while pitching two outs into the seventh inning of a 6-3 victory over the Astros. Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks each drove in a pair of runs for a Yankees attack that had 13 hits, including nine off Astros starter Doug Fister.
The Yankees are on an 8-2 hot streak that is the best in the majors over the past 10 games and have a chance to complete a sweep of the Astros tonight with only five days left until the non-waiver trade deadline. Coincidence, or is the prospect of being broken up a great motivator?
“It can be,” Girardi said. “I’m not saying it is. We’ve been playing better the last couple weeks. They hear the noise. We talked about it. We told them you’ve got to block it out. All these series are important against teams ahead of us. They’ve done a good job.”
Given the chance of sweeping the Astros, it sounds as though Girardi wouldn’t mind if his players thought about accomplishing that task. “It’s important, especially with what’s looming” Girardi said. In the first game of the series on Monday, the Astros scored their only run on a leadoff homer by George Springer off Michael Pineda. It took them one more out to get on the board against Sabathia (6-8), who threw an 89 mile-per-hour fastball that No. 2 hitter Marwin Gonzalez deposited in the leftfield seats for a quick 1-0 lead.
But just as Pineda did, Sabathia recovered well from that first-inning hiccup to start stringing together outs. After giving up a two-out walk in the first, Sabathia retired 11 of the next 12 hitters he faced, allowing only a one-out walk to Springer in the third inning before giving up his second hit of the game, a one-out single by Carlos Gomez in the fifth.
Sabathia surrendered another homer to Evan Gattis in the seventh, but it was minimal damage in an outing that boosted his confidence.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to try and not get frustrated,” Sabathia said of numbers that don’t reflect how well he has pitched. “The way these other guys have been pitching, you want to help out. We’ve battled all year, and you want to keep plugging away with the guys you’ve been battling with.”
The whole Yankees lineup raked against Fister (10-7). They got two runs in the second on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius and a single by Headley. They made it 3-1 in the third when Carlos Beltran singled, went to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a groundout and scored on an infield single by Starlin Castro.
The Yankees broke it open in the fifth with three more runs off Fister, including a sacrifice fly by Headley and two-run triple by No. 9 hitter Hicks, who came into the game with an anemic .191 average.
Asked if this hot streak is a message to ownership, Headley said, “I’m not really into messages. The message in this clubhouse is we believe that we’re a lot better than we’ve shown. Obviously, this time of the year, there are decisions to be made, but that’s not our decision. We’re just going to keep playing and, hopefully, keep winning games.”