With help from Cano, CC records career win No. 200
Sabathia only the 27th to reach milestone before turning 33
MINNEAPOLIS -- CC Sabathia flashed a toothy grin as he held up a baseball with the number 200 inscribed across the sweet spot in black marker, proudly helping to create photographic evidence that a milestone had been reached. This was the easiest part of the night.
Sabathia joined a select group of big league hurlers to earn his 200th win before the age of 33, and although he was forced to grind for it, he helped the Yankees extend their winning streak to three games with a 3-2 victory over the Twins on Wednesday at Target Field.
"I feel like all of them, I've had to battle for," Sabathia said. "Early I felt like all of them were like this; kind of all over the place, a couple of walks, runners on base, just battling to get outs. I think that's just me."
Robinson Cano continued to swing a hot bat, delivering a game-tying two-run double in the sixth inning. Lyle Overbay lifted a go-ahead sacrifice fly later in that frame to provide the necessary support for Sabathia, who fired a season-high 121 pitches.
Sabathia became the 27th pitcher to record his 200th win before turning 33 and just the eighth in the expansion era (since 1961), joining Don Drysdale, Catfish Hunter, Ferguson Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver.
"He's been huge," manager Joe Girardi said. "You think about all the wins that he's had, and I'm glad to get that out of the way for him. I don't like milestones. Players are going to think about it, and people are going to ask him about it. For CC, I think it's great. He's been huge for this organization."
Sabathia did not have his good slider working on Wednesday, and he trailed by a pair of runs through five innings, but the Yankees caught a break when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire rolled the dice and pitched to Cano with runners at second and third with none out in the sixth.
Cano took advantage of the moment, ripping the two-run double to right field off Twins starter P.J. Walters for his sixth straight multihit game of this road trip. Overbay's sac came off lefty reliever Caleb Thielbar.
"The only way that you can look at it, it's a team that is not in the race," Cano said. "Maybe when you're in the race, it's different. The last thing you want is the same guy to beat you twice, the third hitter to beat you. Maybe I would say that's the difference. They're taking their chances."
Gardenhire explained that the Twins were hoping to get Cano to chase Walters' breaking ball in the dirt, trying for a strikeout in that situation because they did not want to put the go-ahead run on base.
"He's a great hitter. You're trying to figure out different ways," Gardenhire said. "The bottom line is, you want him to chase. If you get pitches up in the zone, he kills it, and he did it again tonight."
For Sabathia, win No. 200 is a notable checkpoint on a journey that began as an Indians rookie in 2001 and delivered him to the Brewers as the best of hired guns in the second half of 2008, helping power Milwaukee into the playoffs by going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts.
The Yankees paid big for Sabathia that winter, delivering the game's richest contract given to a pitcher to that point, and Sabathia responded by leading the team to its 27th World Series title. Wednesday's victory was his 83rd as a Yankee.
"It makes me think about my first win in my first season," he said. "Me and my mom talked about if I got 10 wins how great that would be. I ended up with 17 that year. Being able to call her tonight and reminisce will be fun."
He said that the milestone makes him feel "old" and that it is too early to give any thought to reaching 300.
"It's so far away," he said. "I mean, you've got to be lucky. You've got to play on some good teams. That's a long way away for me."
Sabathia walked three and struck out nine, keeping his string of dominance against the Twins intact. He is 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA in his last 12 regular-season and postseason outings against Minnesota, dating back to Aug. 3, 2007.
"When he doesn't have his best stuff, he's going to find a way to get it done, and that's what he did tonight," catcher Chris Stewart said. "He got into quite a few jams out there, but he made big pitches when he needed to and got out of them."
The Twins got their two runs off Sabathia. Joe Mauer doubled home Brian Dozier after a leadoff walk in the third inning and Trevor Plouffe homered over a leaping Brett Gardner to straightaway center field in the fifth.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera needed 16 pitches in the ninth to lock down his 28th save in 29 opportunities for the Yankees' first series victory since June 6-9, at Seattle.
"It does feel good," Girardi said. "Four-game series are hard to win, too. We'll come out and play hard again tomorrow."