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Sabathia crafts winning style to suit his game

Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- More and more it looks like the reinvention of CC Sabathia is complete. The Yankees left-hander may no longer throw the fastball 97 mph, and he may not be overpowering opposing hitters, but that doesn't mean he hasn't found a way to be effective.

Sabathia was crafty and precise on Saturday afternoon as he pitched into the eighth inning and recorded the win in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Jackie Robinson Day. It gives him three solid starts in three outings this season and helped push the Bombers' winning streak to six games.

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NEW YORK -- More and more it looks like the reinvention of CC Sabathia is complete. The Yankees left-hander may no longer throw the fastball 97 mph, and he may not be overpowering opposing hitters, but that doesn't mean he hasn't found a way to be effective.

Sabathia was crafty and precise on Saturday afternoon as he pitched into the eighth inning and recorded the win in the Yankees' 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Jackie Robinson Day. It gives him three solid starts in three outings this season and helped push the Bombers' winning streak to six games.

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Sabathia went 7 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits and a walk while striking out six. The only run he surrendered was Jedd Gyorko's solo homer on the last of his 97 pitches. Sabathia hadn't gone that deep in a game while allowing so few hits since the 2012 season. He improved to 2-0 with a 1.47 ERA.

"It was exciting to be out there on the mound: It's a big day for baseball and African-American players," Sabathia said. "To be able to wear '42' and get a win felt good."

Video: STL@NYY: Sabathia sports new kicks for Robinson's day

"He was using the whole plate, changing it up -- the changeup, curveball, everything was sharp," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He had strikeouts when he needed them and threw the ball well."

Sabathia began to embrace the change to his pitching style last season.

"He's been great. Since I got over here last year, I've just been watching what he's done to reinvent himself a little bit," Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard said. "Early in his career, he was 95-to-98, but now he's the true veteran pitcher -- hitting spots, changing speeds, moving it in-and-out and up-and-down. It's really working for him and it's been a pleasure to watch."

Still in 2016, Sabathia couldn't be as precise as he needed to be because of the health of his arthritic right knee. A brace helped him late in the year, but getting an arthroscopic procedure to "clean out" the joint, he said, has allowed him not to think about pain when he lands in his delivery.

Video: STL@NYY: Sabathia on Jackie Robinson Day win

"I wasn't able to finish on my leg and move toward the plate. Now ... everything is directed toward the plate," Sabathia said. "The November clean out, mentally knowing I feel good? I'm able to come in with a clear mind."

And Sabathia doesn't seem to mind the passing of his former overpowering self. He seems to like the added mental component of besting an opponent.

"Well it's always fun to throw 97," Sabathia said with a smile. "I don't really miss it. I enjoy what I am doing now. I feel confident I can get hitters out with what I have now. ... The backdoor slider? The cutter? The changeup? I can throw everything to both sides of the plate and it's helped me a lot."

This reinvention may even extend the 36-year-old's career beyond this season, the final year of his Yankees contract.

"I will pitch as long as I can," he said. "As long as I am healthy and able to feel good, I want to pitch as long as possible."

Roger Rubin is a contributor to MLB.com based in New York.

New York Yankees, CC Sabathia