When Mariano Rivera struck out Mike Lowell, the potential tying run, to end the Yanks’ 3-0 two-hit shutout of the Red Sox, a nail-biter came to a close, and the Yanks moved one step closer to wrapping up the division title. With the victory, they improved to 8-9 against the Red Sox after starting out the year 0-8. It was the third time this year the Yanks shut out the Red Sox, and as their Magic Number hit one, the Yanks clinched at least a tie for the American League East title.
It didn’t have to be a nail-biter, though. The Yankees had ample opportunities against Daisuke Matsuzaka, and while a Robinson Cano solo home run would hold up, Johnny Damon’s two-out, two-run single in the 8th was the team’s only hit with runners in scoring position in 15 ABs. Luck might have been on Matsuzaka’s side, but Sabathia was on the Yanks’. The big man out-pitched some bad Yankee luck.
In nailing down his 19th win, Sabathia was simply masterful. He was perfect for 3.2 innings and gave up just a single to Mike Lowell in the 5th. His final line — 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K — tells the story: pure dominance.
Sabathia had all of his pitches working. His fastball was in the mid-90s while his change sat in the mid-80s. He had the slider working as well, and later next week, he’ll try to be a 20-game winner for the first time in his career. “He’s that horse we haven’t had around,” Johnny Damon said after the game.
For Sabathia, this start caps a string of 10 outings of sheer dominance. Since giving up 5 earned runs to the White Sox on Aug. 2 — but still drawing a W — Sabathia has been every bit the ace. He is now 8-0 in those starts with a 1.62 ERA. He has 80 strikeouts in 72.1 innings and has walked just 18. With October on the horizon, he is clearly the ace that the team has needed in October.
On the other side of the ball, the Yankees’ afternoon was a bit frustrating. They had runners on in every inning but the 7th, but they could not do anything with it. In the third, with two on, Alex Rodriguez struck out but walked in front of Victor Martinez for an obstruction call and an inning-ending double play.
In the fifth, after Matsuzaka walked Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, A-Rod swung at the first pitch. It went all of 15 feet, and Martinez beat Derek Jeter back to the plate for a fielder’s choice. Hideki Matsui then swung at the first pitch and lifted a foul pop. The Yanks’ big boppers approached their ABs poorly after two straight walks. Bad baseball. Bad luck.
The Yanks grabbed the lead in the sixth when Robinson Cano lifted his 24th home run of the year into the left-field seats. For Cano, it was his 199th hit, 100th run scored and his 80th RBI of the season. With a lead, the Yanks never looked back. They plated two insurance runs in the eighth after Phil Hughes struck out two in the top half. While Mariano Rivera ran into a spot of trouble in the ninth, Mike Lowell swung through the last pitch of the game, and the Yanks were winners against the Red Sox once again.
“CC, Hughes and Mo pitched a hell of a game,” Jose Molina said. Indeed they did.