After CC Sabathia struggled out of the gate Tuesday against Minnesota, a pep talk from pitching coach Larry Rothschild proved to be a galvanizing message for the lefty.
"Larry came to me after the third and he just said make sure to stay on top of the fastball," Sabathia said after the Yankees won 8-3. "That was all I needed to hear. The command game and [Chris Stewart] called a good game and I got in the flow."
After yielding three runs over the first three innings, Sabathia rebounded and held the final 17 batters he faced hitless as he won for the first time this season. He is now undefeated in his last 10 starts against Minnesota, including the postseason, going 9-0.
New York Yankees
"I felt a lot better today," said Sabathia, who threw 7 1/3 innings. "The velocity wasn't quite as good as the first two games, but I think it helped me staying in my delivery and not trying to overthrow and throw the ball where it needed to go."
Sabathia came into the game sporting a 6.75 ERA and the game did not start well for him, as he gave up a home run in the second and later gave up two runs in the third inning on three straight hits. Rothschild said that the southpaw has a tendency to hit his stride around the third inning, and that proved to be true on this night.
Minnesota did not have a hit against Sabathia after the third inning and he struck out five over his final 4 1/3 innings, using his slider and changeup effectively. Sabathia retired 13 straight spanning the third to the sixth before finally walking a batter. He gave up just four hits and struck out seven, leaving the mound to a standing ovation.
"I felt a lot better after the third. My fastball command got a lot better. Larry told me to stay on top, everybody knows I throw everything about my fastball," Sabathia said. "Changeup got a lot better and the curveball was really good tonight too."
Sabathia's 7 1/3 innings were welcome relief for the Yankees as the team had been burning through its bullpen recently. Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes both had short outings in the last three days that forced the relievers into action early, and Sabathia was able to give most of the bullpen a breather as the team is in the middle of a 13-game stretch with no days off.
"One way or another, he had to give us some distance," manager Joe Girardi said.
The Yankees' rotation had struggled entering Tuesday, tossing just two quality starts in the first 10 games. Sabathia hopes his start could be the start of a good run.
"You always want to be the guy that starts the streak and you don't want to be the guy that messes it up," Sabathia said. "I feel we can get on a roll and we do have a really deep pitching staff, and a really good one, and it's up to us to make pitches and show our potential."