A towel full of pie splattered on one's face is usually only reserved for walk-off wins by the Yankees, as delivered from pitcher A.J. Burnett to whoever gets the winning hit.
Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees didn't have a walk-off hit in their 1-0 win over the Rays, yet Burnett brought out the towel anyway. CC Sabathia's dominating complete game shutout proved as good as any walk-off hit would have done.
"Why not?" Burnett said about the pie in the face to Sabathia. "Did you see what he did?"
Sabathia dazzled once again and turned in his best pitching performance of the season as he blanked the Rays 1-0 Sunday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Sabathia picked up his league-leading 13th win of the season, the most he's had at this point in the career.
The southpaw, named to the All-Star team as a replacement Sunday, has now thrown 23.2 consecutive scoreless inning according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He recorded his 12th career shutout and is the first Yankees with 13 wins at the All-Star break since Andy Pettitte in 1996, according to Elias.
"It feels good, but it's even better for our team," Sabathia said. "To come up against a team that's going to be here until the end. To be able to come here and win two out of three before the break is pretty good."
Since being roughed up by Boston on June 9, Sabathia has been downright unstoppable to end the first half. He's 6-0 with a 1.77 ERA with 51 strikeouts over his last six starts, which includes three starts without yielding a run. He's 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his last 11 starts and 13-3 in his last 16 starts.
Matched against All-Star James Shields Sunday, Sabathia looked as good as he had all year against a Tampa Bay team he's struggled against as a Yankee. He had his whole arsenal working for him, whether it be his devastating slider or his fastball that clocked in on the radar gun in the high 90s in the ninth inning. Rays manager Joe Maddon said it's almost as if Sabathia toys with hitters out there.
"He has complete confidence out there and I have complete confidence when he's out there," catcher Russell Martin said. "Really, he makes my job easy because I can point any sign down and you know it's going to be a quality pitch. It makes my job easy."
The Rays stringed together three hits in the first four innings, including a pair of doubles, but Sabathia worked out of the mini-jams and got better as the game wore on. Over the final five innings, Sabathia yielded just one hit, an infield single to B.J. Upton on which he failed to cover first base. He ultimately retired the final seven hitters of the game.
While Sabathia and Shields matched zeroes, the Yankees finally cracked in the bottom of the seventh on two errors to give Sabathia the only run he would need on a beautiful sunny day in the Bronx
With just 99 pitches under his belt after eight, Yankees manager Joe Girardi left Sabathia in the game instead of bringing in closer Mariano Rivera. Before the inning, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild asked if Sabathia still had something left in the tank and while Sabathia felt good, he told Rothschild that even if he didn’t, he would've had to take the ball from him.
With the fans chanting his name and standing and applauding, Sabathia struck out Ben Zobrist looking on a 97-mph fastball for the second out and struck out Elliot Johnson on 98-mph gas for his ninth strikeout of the game to complete the shutout. Right after the strikeout, Sabathia moved his left arm up and down and screamed, showing raw emotion.
"It's the end of the game. Just letting out the emotion and everything you go through during the course of the game, it just felt good to do," Sabathia said.
As Sabathia celebrated on the field with his teammates after the game, the big screen in center flashed the news that Sabathia had been named to the All-Star team, replacing Shields. It had been a somewhat controversial decision to leave Sabathia off the roster as he leads MLB in wins and has a low ERA.
Sabathia won't be pitching in the game as he's ineligible because he pitched Sunday and had already book a vacation to the Bahamas, with his flight leaving at 5 p.m. Sunday, but he was grateful that he had been chosen to represent the American League.
After all, there might not be a better pitcher in the American League right now.
"I'm feeling pretty good right now," Sabathia said. "Hopefully I can keep it going."