CC Sabathia worked into the seventh inning for the third time in his last five outings, and his final pitch of Friday night’s series opener against the Red Sox proved that he still had plenty of energy left in the tank.
Mookie Betts tapped Sabathia’s 97th pitch of the night to the first-base side of the pitcher’s mound, and the burly lefthander bounced quickly out of his follow-through to nab the grounder. He underhanded the ball to Greg Bird at first base and let out an exuberant roar.
Sabathia (5-3) allowed one run, six hits, a walk and a hit batsman in seven innings in the Yankees’ 8-1 win at the Stadium. He struck out five, including Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez in the seventh.
Manager Aaron Boone initially was hesitant to leave Sabathia in to face Betts for the fourth time after Sabathia plunked Jackie Bradley Jr.
“I felt like he was still good,” Boone said. “The score had something to do with it. We had gotten [Chad] Green up to be ready for Betts, but I felt like the way the inning was going, he still seemed in command to me. Even though he hit Jackie there, I still felt like he was in control and OK.”
That show of confidence resonated with Sabathia.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “I didn’t think about it because I’m just in it, but looking back, he could’ve easily just took me out right there for Betts, but he stuck with me and we got the out.”
Sabathia, 37, was pushed back to Friday after originally being scheduled to start Wednesday. Boone thought the circumstances — extra rest and a start against Boston — were in the best interest of both Sabathia and the team.
“Being able to give him the extra really two days with the off day, I feel like any time we can do that, it just seems like he’s a little bit fresher,” Boone said.
Handed a 5-0 lead after four innings, Sabathia allowed consecutive two-out doubles by Betts and Andrew Benintendi in the fifth for the only run on his ledger. After Benintendi stole third base, Sabathia got J.D. Martinez to fly out to right to end the inning.
Sabathia worked through potential trouble in the second inning. Steve Pearce — acquired from the Blue Jays on Thursday — doubled to lead off the frame, but Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Nuñez and Devers went down in order after that.
Through 15 starts and 83 1⁄3 innings, Sabathia has a 3.02 ERA with 66 strikeouts.