It wasn't another near no-no. In fact, it wasn't even a full nine-inning game. But CC Sabathia might have been even more dominant Friday night in striking out nine Rangers and throwing only 73 pitches - 58 for strikes - in a rain-shortened 5-1, six-inning win.
"I think [his stuff] was better today," said Francisco Cervelli, who caught Sabathia's 72/3-inning, one-hit gem against the Rays last Saturday and Friday night's game. "The slider, the two-seam fastball, unbelievable. Texas is a very aggressive team, they swing a lot. If you make mistakes, you're going to pay."
Sabathia (2-0, 2.84 ERA) allowed hits to the second and third batters to dispel any thoughts of a no-hitter, and even allowed a first-inning run on Vladimir Guerrero's sacrifice fly. But he caught American League home run leader Nelson Cruz looking with an inside-corner fastball to end the first, and that was the first of six consecutive strikeouts of the free-swinging Rangers.
Texas managed only one more hit and two more baserunners at rainy, chilly Yankee Stadium. Sabathia didn't walk a batter. "That's about as good as we've seen him," Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia has not just erased his ugly season debut in Boston but perhaps the entire notion that he is a lousy April pitcher.
"I usually get off to a pretty slow start, but my stuff is where I want it to be right now," said Sabathia, who went 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA last April.
The Yankees did not exactly tear the cover off the ball in support of Sabathia, but there, too, they were helped by Texas.
Rangers starter C.J. Wilson (0-1), a converted reliever who missed his most recent start because of food poisoning, kept the Yankees off-balance, but not off the scoreboard. Four of the Yankees' seven hits didn't leave the infield, but they broke open a 1-1 game with three unsightly runs in the fourth.
Wilson loaded the bases with none out by hitting Alex Rodriguez, allowing an infield single to Robinson Cano and walking Nick Swisher. Marcus Thames struck out looking, and it seemed the Rangers would get at least one more out when Curtis Granderson grounded to first baseman Chris Davis.
But Davis opted not to get the sure out at first and tried to throw out Swisher at second from a tough angle. The throw hit Swisher and caromed into leftfield, allowing Rodriguez and Cano to score. Cervelli then lined a soft single to left to drive in Swisher as the rain fell harder.
Jeter's infield single with two outs in the sixth drove in pinch runner Brett Gardner with the fifth run. As soon as Nick Johnson's long fly to leftfield landed in Josh Hamilton's glove, the umpiring crew called for the tarp.
The delay began at 9:06 p.m. and the game was called 65 minutes later.
About the only negative on the night was Mark Teixeira's continued struggles. After Jeter's single and a walk to Johnson in the first, Teixeira had a chance to break out of his slump, but he bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, the start of an 0-for-3 night that dropped him to 3-for-36 (.083).
"Sometimes it's hard to tell if a guy's pressing," Girardi said. "We all know he's frustrated."
Teixeira's slow start is nothing new. Sabathia's April success definitely is, and no one wants to dissect it too much.