The New York Yankees (23-13) came into Kansas City on Tuesday night on the heels of a tough four-game series against the game’s best team, the Houston Astros, a series which saw them best bested in three of those games.
The Royals (16-22) were coming an exciting three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, a series where the Royals won each game by one run. The Yankees were hoping they could steady the ship behind veteran lefty CC Sabathia against Kansas City’s punchless lineup, which was sporting the third-lowest team batting average (.226) in the major leagues.
Sabathia (3-2, 4.93 ERA), pitching on six days rest, had been going through a rough patch after starting the season 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA (18.1IP, 3ER) in his first three starts. His last four outings had been quite ugly: two losses, two no-decisions and a 9.58 ERA. On Tuesday night, he put a stop to the stretch with a vintage CC performance.
The 36 year-old former ace pitched the Yankees into the seventh inning, scattering five hits with 0 ER, 2 BB and 4 K in the Bombers’ 7-1 victory in the first of a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
The Yankees pounded out 13 hits on the night to buoy Sabathia’s strong outing, led by catcher Gary Sanchez’ three-run dinger off Royals’ starter Jason Hammel (1-5, 6.20 ERA) in the third inning. First baseman Chris Carter smacked a two-run shot off Hammel the next inning, giving Sabathia a nice cushion to lean on as he cruised to his 20th career victory over Kansas City.
“The cutter was a lot better today,” Sabathia told reporters after the game. “And the guys played great defense behind me. We figured out by the second inning they were coming out hacking. We just had to make some pitches on the edges and get some quick outs.”
The win was just what these Yankees needed to stay afloat in the AL East race. As of this morning, they are one-half game ahead of Baltimore (23-14), who bashed their way to a 13-11 win against the Tigers n Detroit last night.
Sabathia, in his ninth year in pinstripes, has gone through the wringer with the Yankees. After finishing 14-13 in 2013, he has gone just 20-28 since encountering weight-related knee problems along with a stint in an alcohol rehabilitation facility. He will be a free agent after this season but the Yankees are hoping to squeeze one more year out of him until their army of young pitchers begin to bubble up from the minors.
If he can log in more outings like this one, the Yankees will be thrilled. After the game, manager Joe Girardi cited the fact that Sabathia kept his pitch count down and got through some “pretty quick innings”. Sabathia threw just 85 pitches over 6 and 2/3 innings.
The Yankees will send Michael Pineda (3-2, 3.27) to the mound on Wednesday to face off against the Royals’ red-hot lefty, Jason Vargas (5-1, 1.01).