CC keeps O's off-balance, and guessing

May 5th, 2016

BALTIMORE -- The feeble swings from a powerful Orioles lineup were the best evidence yet that CC Sabathia really will be able to succeed with a different arsenal at this stage of his career. His approach may have changed, but the results were classic.

Sabathia rolled back the clock with seven dominant innings on Wednesday, scattering six hits and striking out a season-high six in the Yankees' 7-0 victory at Camden Yards, keeping the O's guessing with a steady diet of sinkers, changeups and sliders.

"That's exactly what happened, just kind of keep guys off-balance," Sabathia said. "You try to outthink them and make some good pitches."

Sabathia was helped by three double plays, inducing Adam Jones to hit into a twin killing that ended the third inning.

Nolan Reimold did the same in the fourth, and Mark Trumbo hit into a 6-4-3 DP that ended the sixth, nudging manager Joe Girardi to send Sabathia, who had thrown 87 pitches, back out with a three-run lead for the seventh.

"He is as good as they come," catcher Brian McCann said. "He's such a competitor; he's going to find a way. I know he's not throwing 93, 94, 95 [mph] anymore, but he wins ballgames. He's got over 200 wins. We want him on the mound."

That confidence was rewarded as Sabathia retired the 6-7-8 hitters in Baltimore's lineup in order, wrapping his evening with a swinging strikeout of Caleb Joseph on a 78-mph slider.

"He pitches almost like it's an 0-2 count every time," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You've got to be real selective off him. Same thing he's been doing for a while. He's never going to give in."

Sabathia's fastball averaged 88 mph, but he only used it 17 times in 99 pitches, much preferring to use his sinker (33), changeup (28) and slider (21). The changeup generated eight swings and misses, making it his best weapon of the evening.

"It's a pitch that I need," Sabathia said. "I'm going to have to keep it in the mix. I think the arm speed was good on it, and it fooled some guys."

"I saw a lot of movement on it; I saw depth, I saw tail to it," Girardi said. "From where I'm at, that's kind of hard to see, but I saw it. I saw some swings and misses, which is important."

It was not lost on the Yankees that Camden Yards was the ballpark where Sabathia's 2015 season ended, as he walked into Girardi's office and announced his intention to seek treatment for alcohol abuse. Sabathia said that was not on his mind as he pitched, though he allowed himself some reflection later.

"It's a big contrast from me standing in this locker room last time," Sabathia said. "To be able to go out and get us a win felt great."

Sabathia's next victory will be his 100th as a Yankee, and through five weeks of a season in which Masahiro Tanaka has been viewed as the team's most reliable starter, Wednesday's effort can be presented as convincing evidence that the Yankees might still be able to lean on the big man.

"Just keep building," Sabathia said. "I think I threw the ball better in my last start, and better tonight. Hopefully I just keep it going."