CC Sabathia wasn't letting go of the ball. Not without a fight.
He felt too good to have his afternoon cut short after eight innings and 100 pitches. The game was his to finish, and he was determined to close it out in style.
"Larry came down and asked me was I all right," he said, referring to his dugout conversation with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. "I told him yeah. He said, 'Would you tell me if you weren't?' and I said 'No.' He'd have to come get it from me."
Then Sabathia pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the final two batters to punctuate a 1-0 shutout of the Rays Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees (53-35) are a game behind Boston entering the All-Star break.
Sabathia -- whose final pitch was clocked at 98 mph -- allowed four hits and a walk and struck out nine to earn his major league-leading 13th victory. "It felt good to be able to finish the game and let out some emotion in a 1-0 game, a tight game," said Sabathia, who got the whipped-cream-towel treatment from A.J. Burnett on the field after his 12th career shutout.
Sabathia (13-4, 2.72) has gone 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his last 11 starts. In his last three games, he has not allowed a run in 232/3 innings, a career best, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"He wants the ball. He always wants to go back out there," Russell Martin said. "If the game's on the line, he wants to be out there, and it feels like every time he goes out there, he's going to give the bullpen a rest."
In a game that needed only 2 hours, 11 minutes to complete, Sabathia (who pitched to only three batters in each of the last seven innings) and the Rays' James Shields (who retired 11 batters in a row between the third and sixth) kept the game scoreless through six innings. The Yankees put together only four hits and a walk off Shields (8-7, 2.33), but two throwing errors cost Tampa Bay the game.
Robinson Cano singled to lead off the seventh and reached third when centerfielder B.J. Upton threw the ball into the Yankees' dugout as he attempted to double Cano off first on Jorge Posada's flyout. An out later, Shields tried to pick off Cano at third but threw the ball over Sean Rodriguez's head, allowing Cano to trot home.
Unlike Shields, Sabathia never faltered. His command of his overpowering fastball and his slider kept hitters off balance all afternoon. After allowing two doubles and a walk in the first two innings, he gave up only two singles in the final seven innings, both by Upton -- who was picked off in the fourth and doubled off first in the seventh.
"CC almost toys with you," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
It was a performance befitting an All-Star, and he was named one Sunday. But Sabathia, who would not have been able to pitch Tuesday anyway, had planned to spend the break in the Bahamas with his family.
Sabathia, who was selected as a replacement for Shields, said he wasn't upset about the initial snub despite leading the major leagues in victories. "I was going to the Bahamas the whole time because I was pitching today," said Sabathia, who had a 5 p.m. flight Sunday. "It's definitely exciting to be able to be named. That's exciting. But somebody's got to get snubbed."
Notes & quotes:David Robertson was named an All-Star for the first time, replacing the Rays' David Price (turf toe) . . . Nick Swisher (left quad) did not play, though he said he was available to pinch hit . . . Bartolo Colon will open the four-game series in Toronto on Thursday, followed by Freddy Garcia, Sabathia and Phil Hughes . . . With runners on second and third, one out in the third and Mark Teixeira up, the Rays' overshift had Rodriguez holding Eduardo Nuñez at third and the rest of the left side wide open. But Teixeira popped to center and Upton threw out Nuñez at the plate.. . . The Yankees hosted the Long Island Bombers, a team composed of blind and visually impaired players, in the first-ever Beep Baseball game at the Stadium.