Manager Aaron Boone said that "everything is on the table" as the Yankees deploy starters in October, and German could become one of their most versatile pieces. Sabathia completed 3 1/3 innings in his return from the injured list, then turned the mound over to German, who continued his breakout season with sharp work over four frames.
"All year, he's been great," Sabathia said. "To see him come in in that situation and pick up the win was great. He's got 18 wins now, so hopefully he can get two more and get to 20."
With the clubs back on the field 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Yanks' 10-4 victory in Game 1, Aaron Judge put New York on the board quickly with a two-run, first-inning homer off starter Spencer Turnbull, who also surrendered run-scoring hits to DJ LeMahieu and Didi Gregorius in a five-inning effort.
Making his first start since Aug. 30 due to right knee inflammation, Sabathia strapped on his bulky brace and blanked Detroit through three innings. A leadoff walk and a one-out single set up Brandon Dixon's two-run double, which ended Sabathia's afternoon at 56 pitches.
"We have a lot of good pitchers and I like putting them in situations that hopefully we can maximize them," Boone said. "Today between CC and Domingo, it was pretty effective."
Sabathia walked one and struck out five. His third strikeout surpassed John Smoltz for 16th on the all-time strikeouts list, and Sabathia now sits at 3,087 for his career.
"I felt sharp. I'm excited and encouraged about how it felt tonight," Sabathia said. "I felt good in my bullpen [sessions]. You never know when a hitter gets in there. I felt pretty good, so hopefully I can keep building off this."
In came German, whose only previous relief appearance of the year was also following Sabathia, on April 13 against the White Sox. German showcased an electric arsenal in shutting down the Tigers' bats, recording 12 outs -- five via strikeout -- while limiting Detroit to two hits.
"The preparation was the same. Nothing changed," German said through an interpreter. "I was just waiting for the phone call to go into the game and just have the same kind of mindset; have a positive mind and make believe that I'm starting the game."
The sweep came at a price for the first-place Yankees, whose magic number to lock up the American League East was reduced to five with the Rays' 6-4 loss to the Rangers on Thursday night.
After losing Edwin Encarnacion (left oblique strain) and J.A. Happ (left biceps tendinitis) to injuries in the opener, catcher Gary Sánchez was removed in the fourth inning with left groin tightness. Sanchez missed 16 games earlier this season with a left groin strain that sidelined him from July 24 to Aug. 10.
"I keep saying, it's going to make for a good World Series DVD," Sabathia said. "There's nothing we can do, just keep going. That's what we've done all year and we'll continue to do that."
The wall is day to day
Judge made a terrific over-the-shoulder catch to take away a potential extra-base hit from John Hicks in the fourth inning, crashing into the padded wall. Judge appeared to wince momentarily, saying that the left side of his body had absorbed the impact.
Asked if he felt OK after the crash, Judge replied, "Oh yeah. Did you ask the wall?"
Boone said that he had some concern when he saw Judge stumble after the grab, but he recognized that Judge was fine when the outfielder returned to the dugout.
"First thing is, unbelievable play," Boone said. "He's homered, then he takes away that, which is going to be another run. To see him flinch there for a second, because he usually doesn't show anything, it definitely gets your attention."
The wall was not available for comment.
Gio Urshela came off the bench to extend the Yanks' lead with a ninth-inning home run off Gregory Soto, marking Urshela's career-high 20th.
That gives the Yankees seven players with 20 or more homers, tying a franchise record set during their World Series championship season of 2009.