CC Sabathia had just struck out Washington’s Michael A. Taylor for the second out of the fourth inning when a cheer erupted from the crowd of 44,220 at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night.
Sabathia had recorded his 1,500th strikeout as a Yankee. That fact was flashed on the centerfield scoreboard. Chants of “CC, CC” broke out.
But Sabathia was unaware. He stood on the mound, ready to throw his next pitch, before rookie Gleyber Torres motioned to catcher Austin Romine to ask for time.
Sabathia turned around and saw it. He tossed the ball into the Yankees dugout, got a new one, and continued with another outstanding outing.
Sabathia improved to 4-1 with 5 2⁄3 innings of four-hit ball as the Yankees beat the Nationals, 3-0. The 37-year-old lefthander walked three and hit a batter.
“I didn’t know how close I was to 1,500,” Sabathia, who needed three strikeouts and got three, said. “It’s a cool stat and it was fun to have that happen. I didn’t know what was going on until I turned around. I didn’t want to, like, stand there too long.”
Sabathia is fifth on the Yankees’ all-time strikeout list just behind Red Ruffing (1,526). Andy Pettitte is first with 2,020 in a Yankees uniform. Sabathia has 2,893 total.
Of far more importance to Sabathia was the victory, which came after the Yankees lost to the Mets on Sunday night. Since the start of the 2017 season, Sabathia is 11-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 17 starts following a Yankees loss.
“Overall, he was really good again,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The stuff was good again. The slider was a really, really effective pitch.”
The only part that made Boone nervous was the three times Sabathia had to come off the mound and field his position, including a nifty play right after the milestone strikeout. Sabathia got the last out of the fourth when he pounced on a dribbler near the third-base line and fired to retire Pedro Severino.
“That one play he made — you’re holding your breath the whole way,” Boone said. “Kind of shows you his athleticism, too, when he does have to occasionally go make those plays still. It was a good play he made coming off the mound. [Romine] was laughing. He was like, ‘I couldn’t get there. It was on you, big man.’ ”
Sabathia’s night ended when Taylor reached on a similar dribbler with two outs in the sixth. Nobody got to that one.
“Too much,” Sabathia said, laughing. “A couple times is good. Three is too much.”