YANKEES 6, INDIANS 4
During a long major-league season bullpens get taxed and sometimes it is up to the team’s ace pitcher to go the distance for the good of the club. That is exactly what CC Sabathia did for the Yankees on Wednesday.
Sabathia pitched his first complete game of the season and New York benefitted from a pair of early home runs to claim a three-game sweep of Cleveland in front of a paid crowd of 42,477 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (6-4), bolstered by an early 6-0 lead, shut down the Indians to pitch 4 2/3 innings of perfect baseball before he surrendered a bloop single to left by Mike Aviles.
The Yankees, meanwhile, got off to quick start against right-hander Corey Kluber (3-4) when Robinson Cano reached on a two-base fielding error by center-fielder Michael Bourn with one out in the first inning. One out later, Travis Hafner blasted a tape-measure home run deep into the second deck in right-field for his 10th home run of the season and his second in as many at-bats.
Hafner hit his ninth home run on Monday in the seventh inning off Justin Masterson of the Indians, Hafner’s former team.
The Yankees added to their lead in the second inning when Lyle Overbay reached on an infield single and, one out later, Jayson Nix advanced him to third on an opposite-field double to right.
Chris Stewart scored Overbay on a lined single to left and Brett Gardner followed with his sixth home run of the season.
But Kluber settled down and allowed the Yankees only two singles until he left after seven innings having given up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk while he struck out eight.
But Sabathia was the better pitcher on this day.
The Indians did score a pair of runs in the sixth inning on back-to-back one-out singles by Drew Stubbs and Bourn and an RBI single off the bat of Jason Kipnis and an RBI groundout by Nick Swisher.
They added another two runs in the seventh inning on a two-out single by Michael Brantley and a two-run home run from Yan Gomes that brought the Indians back into the contest.
The Yankees entered the game with relievers Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera all having pitched the previous two games and they preferred not to have to use them for a third straight day.
However, Sabathia only allowed a two-out walk to Swisher in the eighth and he retired the the Indians in order in the ninth to preserve the victory for the Yankees.
The veteran left-hander gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk while he fanned nine batters for his second consecutive victory in as many starts after not winning any of his previous five outings.
The series sweep gives the Yankees a 6-1 record in their season series with the Indians and they also salvaged a 4-4 homestand.
The victory also improves the Yankees’ season record to 34-25. Combined with losses by both the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees broke their second-place tie with the O’s and are only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Bosox in the American League East. The Indians dropped to 30-29.
- Sabathia pitched a whole lot better than the four runs he ended up yielding might indicate. He struck out five of the first 12 batters he faced and he did not allow a ball out of the infield until Swisher flew out to center to end the fourth inning. The hardest hit ball of the game was Gomes’ homer in the seventh. Sabathia is now 117-5 in his career with 6 or more runs of support.
- Hafner had only four hits against the Indians in the five games he played against his former team, however, three of them were home runs. His round-tripper in the first inning took such high flight they could served a meal before it landed. Hafner’s two home runs in the series followed a homer drought of 10 games. His eighth home run came on May 20 against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
- Gardner’s home run in the second inning was his sixth of the season, which is one away from his career high of seven in 2011, even though the Yankees are just a little over having played just one-third of the season. The home run also had nothing to do with the short porch in right. Gardner really tagged it and it would have been a home run anywhere.
- Manager Joe Girardi is going to have to make a decision on what to do about the slumping Vernon Wells. The 34-year-old outfielder was 0-for-4 in the game and was 0-for-8 in the series. In the past 10 games, Wells is 3-for-34 (.088) and he is hurting the offense. Why Girardi did not elect to start Ichiro Suzuki in left against the right-handed Kluber is just beyond me.
- Cano is also in the midst of a slump. He was 0-for-3 in the game and 1-for-12 in the series. He also is 2-for-20 (.100) since May 31. Cano’s batting average has dipped to a season low of .279 and it looks like some pitchers the Yankees will be facing in the coming few weeks may be paying a big price for it.
Suzuki entered the game as a defensive replacement for Overbay in the seventh inning and he singled to lead off the eighth inning. That single gave him 2,655 career hits and allowed him to pass Ted Williams for 72nd place on the all-time hits list. Suzuki also has 1.278 hits from his career in Japan, which means he is just 67 hits away from a combined total of 4,000 hits.
The Yankees will embark on their longest road trip of the year beginning with a four-game weekend series in Seattle against the Mariners.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-4, 5.37 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off an outing in which he gave up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in just 4 1/3 innings against the Red Sox on Sunday. He is 4-3 with a 4.29 ERA in his career against the Mariners.
The Mariners will counter with veteran right-hander Aaron Harang (2-5, 5.82 ERA). Harang has allowed only one run in his past 15 innings covering two starts. Harang has never faced the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.