- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia saved the Yankees from having to turn to their taxed bullpen.
Sabathia retired the first 14 batters he faced and went the distance for the first time this season, and the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 6-4 victory Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
“These guys [the bullpen] have bailed me out a lot this year,” Sabathia said. “The strength of our team is our bullpen, so to be able to give these guys a rest and have them fresh going into the next series is huge.”
New York Yankees
Sabathia (6-4), who notched his first complete game since Aug. 3, 2012, allowed four runs on seven hits, struck out nine and walked one. He threw 116 pitches, 84 for strikes. Sabathia has issued just one free pass in his past two starts (2-0, 16 1/3 innings, 19 strikeouts). It was his 36th career complete game -- and 10th as a Yankee.
Sabathia had thrown 102 pitches heading into the ninth inning, but with David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain unavailable and Joe Girardi hoping to avoid using Boone Logan or Mariano Rivera, the Yankees manager asked his ace left-hander to finish what he started.
“I told him, 'Finish it. Finish it. Go do what you’ve done so many times here,' and he did,” Girardi said.
How good was Sabathia on Wednesday afternoon?
According to ESPN Stats & Information:
• Sabathia induced 16 ground balls, tied for his most in any start as a Yankee. He also got 14 ground-ball outs, tied for his second-most in the past five seasons.
• He got 34 called strikes, by far his most as a Yankee. It’s also the second-most in any start by a pitcher this season (A.J. Griffin had 35 on May 13 versus the Rangers).
I told him, 'Finish it. Finish it. Go do what you’ve done so many times here,' and he did.
”-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi on Wednesday's winner, CC Sabathia
• He threw 54 percent of his pitches on the outer third of the zone or off the outside corner of the plate, his highest rate this season. Those pitches got him 14 outs with just two baserunners allowed.
• The Indians were 1-for-19 in at-bats that reached a two-strike count, including 0-for-9 on an 0-2 count.
• Five of his nine strikeouts came with his slider, the sixth time in 13 starts this season he’s had five or more strikeouts with his slider. He threw 23 sliders, netting him eight outs and just one hit allowed on at-bats that ended with the pitch.
• Sabathia had a 90.7 mph average fastball velocity (his second-highest of the season) and threw eight of his fastballs 93 mph or higher (his second-best in a game in 2013).
“I feel a lot better, just throwing on the side, playing catch, I feel more consistent,” Sabathia said. “I’ve been able to throw the ball where I want. Hopefully, I can just keep building and getting better.”
Sabathia took a perfect game into the fifth inning, but Mike Aviles broke it up when he dunked a two-out single in front of left fielder Vernon Wells. The crowd of 42,477 responded by giving Sabathia a standing ovation.
“It was early. I was still trying to get a feel for the game and try to make pitches, so I didn’t even realize until after he got the hit,” Sabathia said.
How did he know?
“Everybody started clapping,” Sabathia said with a laugh.
Girardi is hopeful the Sabathia of old is back for good.
“That’s what he’s kind of been, a guy that can get on a roll, and that was good to see,” Girardi said.