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CC opens farewell tour with 5 vintage innings

Sabathia sets tone in 1-hit shutout; Yanks break through with 3-run 7th
@BryanHoch
April 13, 2019

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia enjoyed a terrific return to the mound following an offseason health scare, opening his 19th and final Major League season with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Yankees' 4-0 victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. 122 days after

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia enjoyed a terrific return to the mound following an offseason health scare, opening his 19th and final Major League season with five scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Yankees' 4-0 victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

122 days after a stent was inserted to clear a blocked artery leading to the veteran left-hander's heart, Sabathia once again served as the team's trusted stopper, striking out three without a walk in a stellar 62-pitch effort that helped to snap the Yankees' four-game skid.

"I was out there the first inning and shaking, but it felt good to be back out there and be with the guys, and it feels good to get a win today," Sabathia said. "Being back out there, thinking where I came from in December and actually being back on the mound, it was cool. I was able to kind of harness those nerves and go out and be smooth."

With the outing, Sabathia became the first pitcher in Major League history to throw at least five scoreless innings with one hit or fewer and no walks in consecutive starts, having also done so last Sept. 27 against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He is also 11 strikeouts shy of becoming the 17th man to register 3,000 career whiffs.

"He's the leader of this team," said Aaron Judge, whose eighth-inning homer capped the scoring. "When you're missing your leader like that for a while, it's tough. Having him back in here, his presence, his laugh -- everything about him. All around, he's one of the best teammates I've ever had, and he's such a competitor when he's on the mound."

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After Ivan Nova held his former team scoreless through six innings, the Yankees broke through against Nova, Jace Fry and Ryan Burr in the seventh, capitalizing on an error by second baseman Yolmer Sanchez.

Luke Voit came off the bench to deliver a bases-loaded RBI single, busting his bat on a line drive that found a grassy patch of center field. Kyle Higashioka lifted a sac fly toward the wall in right field, and Tyler Wade followed orders from the bench, executing a safety squeeze.

"Those are the times you've got to capitalize, especially at a time when it's tough for us," manager Aaron Boone said. "We're kind of grinding through this pitching performance and catch a break. The guys go and take advantage of it and really execute at a high level, getting us a lead in what had obviously been a really well-played game on both sides."

Though Sabathia lobbied to pitch past the fifth, Boone said he would have felt comfortable extending him only another 8-10 pitches. The victory was credited to Domingo Germán, who fired two scoreless, hitless innings in relief.

Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman finished the one-hit shutout, the Yankees' first since Sept. 22, 2014, against the Orioles. The Yankees had not registered a one-hit, zero-walk shutout since Mike Mussina's near-perfect game at Fenway Park on Sept. 2, 2001.

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"This might be the start of something right here," Judge said. "We've got to feed off those last couple of innings of this game. Our bullpen came out and did its job. Now let's get ready for tomorrow."

Sabathia was helped by arguably the Yankees' best defensive effort of the season to date. Wade made a deft third-inning play on a Welington Castillo grounder to earn Sabathia's enthusiastic approval, followed two batters later by a diving Brett Gardner grab that stole a hit from Adam Engel.

"It makes a huge difference when the guys are playing great defense, especially your first game back," Sabathia said. "You're just trying to get into the groove and guys are playing great behind you, it just makes it that much better."

Sabathia added that he enjoyed the matchup with Nova, whose 16 victories for the 2011 Yankees were second only to Sabathia's 19.

"I knew he was going to be good today," Sabathia said. "He's been calling me all week saying we were lining up. It was good to see him pitch well. I know he wanted to pitch good back here in Yankee Stadium. Nova's like a little brother to me, so I'm always wishing him well."

The 38-year-old Sabathia leads all active Major Leaguers in strikeouts (2,989), innings pitched (3,475) and quality starts (313). He said his decision to retire after this campaign had already been made by December, when he noticed shortness of breath and excessive perspiration during workouts.

Doctors discovered a 90 percent blockage in an artery leading to the hurler's heart, prompting his Dec. 11 angioplasty.

"I knew that I would get back out there," Sabathia said. "I didn't know how long it was going to take. Obviously, this is a lot quicker than I think anybody anticipated. So it just feels good to be back."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.