Mixing pitches, Sabathia in sustained groove

May 27th, 2016

NEW YORK -- In the literal sense, this was a loss for CC Sabathia and the Yankees, though the big left-hander could be excused if he had difficulty feigning disappointment with seven innings of two-hit ball and no earned runs against the Blue Jays' stacked lineup.

Though Sabathia had to accept the "L" in New York's 3-1 defeat on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, the club looked at it more as a missed opportunity, as it represented another positive step for Sabathia's ongoing reinvention. Sabathia's last three starts serve as strong evidence that he has learned how to mix his pitches in winning fashion against big league hitters.

"He's learning what he can and can't do now with lesser velocity," catcher Brian McCann said. "When you have a mindset like he's got, he's going to succeed no matter what he's doing. That's why he's one of the best pitchers of this generation. His career has been amazing."

Both of Toronto's runs off Sabathia were unearned, because Didi Gregorius couldn't corral a bad-hop grounder from Devon Travis in the third inning. After pitching around Josh Donaldson, Sabathia surrendered a two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion that fell in front of left fielder Brett Gardner.

"They've got a tough lineup," Sabathia said. "I just wanted to get some outs. I made a bad pitch to Encarnacion. … Ended up leaving a two-seamer up. Other than that, everything else was pretty good."

Sabathia's velocity has resided in the high 80s for most of this season, but ticked up on a muggy 85-degree day in the Bronx, with the radar gun flashing some 92-mph and 93-mph readings.

"I felt good," Sabathia said. "I'm starting to feel a little bit better. Hopefully I can keep throwing strikes with it."

The extra gas served to make Sabathia's pitches sharper, keeping the Blue Jays guessing on one side of the plate as he busted his cutter in, spotted his sinker down and away and placed his back-door slider nicely. Sabathia added that the confidence in his changeup has increased over the past few weeks.

"I think we feel good when he takes the mound," manager Joe Girardi said. "We've always said that CC really knows how to compete, and if someone's going to figure it out, he's going to figure it out. That's what he's done."

The resulting seven strikeouts gave Sabathia 2,610 for his career, tying him with Chuck Finley for 23rd place all time (and fifth place among left-handers). Thursday's effort also saw Sabathia push past Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (2,607) on that same list.

Sabathia said that the march up the K list didn't do much for him. He'd be more pleased with these numbers: This is the first time since 2011 that Sabathia has rattled off three straight starts of six innings or more and one earned run or fewer.

"[It means] that I'm healthy, continuing to get better," Sabathia said. "Hopefully I can just keep building on that and keep helping this team try to win."