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Managing pain, CC manages to set K record

Lefty returns from DL to throw 6 solid frames, become AL strikeout leader among lefties
MLB.com @BryanHoch

BOSTON -- Twelve days ago, CC Sabathia glumly sat on the stairs that lead out of the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre, resting an aching right knee that he was almost certain needed surgery. Booked on a flight back to New York, the lefty wondered if this was the game's way of telling him to go home for good.

But after a surprisingly clean MRI exam and a 10-day stint on the disabled list, here he was, walking off the mound at Fenway Park with six strong innings in the books and about to pick up the win in a 4-3 Yankees victory. He also reached an interesting footnote in the second inning, whiffing Chris Young for his 2,680th strikeout in the American League, surpassing Mickey Lolich (2,679) for the most by a left-hander in the Junior Circuit. Sabathia had already passed Frank Tanana (2,669) on the list.

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BOSTON -- Twelve days ago, CC Sabathia glumly sat on the stairs that lead out of the visitors' clubhouse at Rogers Centre, resting an aching right knee that he was almost certain needed surgery. Booked on a flight back to New York, the lefty wondered if this was the game's way of telling him to go home for good.

But after a surprisingly clean MRI exam and a 10-day stint on the disabled list, here he was, walking off the mound at Fenway Park with six strong innings in the books and about to pick up the win in a 4-3 Yankees victory. He also reached an interesting footnote in the second inning, whiffing Chris Young for his 2,680th strikeout in the American League, surpassing Mickey Lolich (2,679) for the most by a left-hander in the Junior Circuit. Sabathia had already passed Frank Tanana (2,669) on the list.

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This was an outcome that the veteran left-hander couldn't have imagined that night in Canada.

"I would say no way," Sabathia said. "But everything has worked out and hopefully I can just continue going out there and keep helping the team."

With the knee protected by the original brace that he began using in September 2015, Sabathia said that the mix of cortisone, platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections helped him manage the discomfort while limiting the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in an 80-pitch outing.

Video: NYY@BOS: Sabathia fans four over six solid innings

"I just didn't feel the pain," Sabathia said. "I think the shots worked. I was able to go out and finish pitches, and I feel like when I'm able to finish pitches, I've got a pretty good chance of helping the team win."

Upon returning to New York, Sabathia was preparing to hear the worst. Any significant damage to the knee would probably end his season, and with that, might mean that Sabathia had thrown his final pitch for the Yankees. Sabathia is a free agent after this season.

"I know he was pretty emotional that night, because I think he thought he was probably headed for surgery," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We said, 'Let's just see before we come to any conclusions.' If you would have listened to the tone in his voice -- and he's been through it enough times -- you probably wouldn't have guessed that."

Sabathia had an eventful first inning, snaring Mookie Betts' 96-mph liner back to the mound before pouncing on an Andrew Benintendi bunt, with the Red Sox testing his ability to move off the mound.

Video: NYY@BOS: Sabathia makes a tough grab on a hard liner

"I felt a little bit, but nothing like where it was in Toronto," Sabathia said. "Where it's at now, I can manage."

In all, Sabathia retired the first eight batters he faced before Jackie Bradley Jr.'s two-out single in the third inning. Sandy Leon and Bradley cashed in the only Boston runs off Sabathia in a 23-pitch fifth inning, on a groundout and a single, respectively.

"Every time you can beat the team that you're chasing, it's going to be a big win, especially in our division," Sabathia said. "It's a big win and hopefully we come out tomorrow and win the series."

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

New York Yankees, CC Sabathia