NEW YORK – CC Sabathia performed a big league first Saturday: consecutive regular season starts of at least five innings, no walks and no more than one hit.
Among Sabathia’s more remarkable feats, considering what came between.
“That is classic CC right there,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
Sabathia began his 19th and final big league season with five stellar innings, pinch-hitter Luke Voit came through with a broken-bat RBI single in the seventh and New York one-hit the White Sox, 4-0, Saturday to end a four-game slide.
Sabathia allowed a hit and no other base runners in his first start since having a stent inserted after blockage was found in an artery from his heart in December. He’s the first pitcher ever with five innings, one hit and no walks over back-to-back starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, although it didn’t feel quite as smooth as it looked.
“I was out there the first inning, I was like, shaking,” said Sabathia, who plans to retire after the season. “Thinking from where I came from in December and actually being back on the mound, it’s cool. I was able to kind of harness those nerves.”
Johnny Vander Meer pitched back-to-back no-hitters for Cincinnati in 1938, walking of 11 in the two games.
José Rondón had the Sox’s only hit, a clean single in the third inning.
It was scoreless in the seventh when second baseman Yolmer Sanchez booted a likely double play grounder to set up Voit’s RBI. With the bases loaded, New York’s beefy, breakout slugger split his bat near the handle, but still muscled a single to center against Ryan Burr for a 1-0 lead. Kyle Higashioka followed with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right, and Tyler Wade brought in another run with a safety squeeze.
Aaron Judge narrowly homered into the short right field porch in the eighth, his fourth of the season.
Sox starter Ivan Nova (0-2) dueled with Sabathia, pitching four-hit ball into the seventh. He was pulled after allowing Gleyber Torres’ leadoff single, and the former Yankee right-hander was cheered by some Bronx fans as he walked off.
“I was blacked out,” Nova said of the reaction. “It was pretty cool.”
Domingo German (3-0) followed Sabathia by striking out four in two overpowering innings. Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman closed things out with a perfect inning each for New York, a refreshingly clean showing for a struggling, short-handed bullpen. The Yankees have led in 13 of 14 games this season yet are just 6-8.
The Sox have lost six of seven and dropped to 4-9.
Boone kept the 38-year-old Sabathia on a short leash in his first start following offseason operations on his heart and right knee. The big left-hander worked effectively with his cut fastball and slider against a righty-heavy lineup. He struck out three, raising his career total to 2,989, and only threw 62 pitches.
“He’s a craftsman out there,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “And he did a nice job of keeping us at bay.”
“It means a lot to the room that he came back,” Boone said.
Sabathia had an almost identical line last September against Tampa Bay before he was ejected for plunking Jesus Sucre. This was his first regular season start since.
Players wore short sleeves and sunglasses a night after a swampy, rain-shortened win by the Sox. Pitchers on both teams struggled to grip the ball.
No such issues Saturday. Nova and Sabathia were all over the strike zone, allowing a combined five baserunners over the first five innings – two of those were erased by a pair of White Sox double plays. Time of game was a crisp 2:28.
It was a memorable day for those starters, who were tight as pinstriped teammates over parts of seven seasons. Nova refers to Sabathia as his mentor, and Sabathia considers Nova a little brother.
“I knew he was going to be good today,” Sabathia said. “He had been calling me all week, saying we were lining up and all that stuff. It was good to see him pitch well. Especially, I knew he wanted to pitch well at Yankee Stadium. “