Wednesday's 7-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles marked the first time that Sabathia threw at least seven scoreless innings since April 7, 2013, against the Detroit Tigers. He had also pitched quite poorly in his previous 10 starts against the Orioles -- for a combined 4.97 ERA.
But the Yankees desperately needed what they got from him on Wednesday.
The story of Sabathia’s win could be told in the work of one pitch, his changeup. Sabathia threw 20 of them and netted eight outs, including four strikeouts. He had thrown only 36 changeups all season (an average of nine per start) in his other four starts in 2016. That included a start against the Rays on April 22, when he threw six and yielded four base hits.
There was a time when the changeup was an extremely valuable pitch for Sabathia. In 2012, his last effective season, opponents hit .181 against the Sabathia changeup.
Wednesday’s version of that pitch harkened back to those times and fooled the Orioles' hitters. He threw only six of the 20 in the strike zone but got 12 strikes with it.
The defining moment of the game involved one of Sabathia’s changeups. After the Orioles put the first two men on base in the bottom of the second, Sabathia struck Manny Machado out on a changeup, than got Adam Jones to ground into a double play with his cutter on the next pitch.