CC Sabathia understood the importance of Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers, even if it was only the sixth game of the season. The Yankees were wobbly, a team that was still trying to play a reliable brand of baseball, so the Yankees needed Sabathia to be a stabilizer and help guide them to a win. He did.
In a titanic matchup where Justin Verlander was the more celebrated pitcher, Sabathia ended up as the more successful pitcher. Sabathia tossed seven scoreless innings in silencing a talented lineup and powering the Yankees to a 7-0 victory. For the Yankees, a 2-4 record felt a lot better than 1-5, especially because of the significance of Sabathia's performance.
Sabathia's fastball was a bit more robust as he maxed out at 92.5 miles per hour and averaged 90 to 91, but his command was improved and he also featured a dependable slider and a more ubiquitous changeup. Sabathia has thrown his change 20 percent of the time, up from 12.6 percent in 2012.
Still, Sabathia's most impressive numbers were holding Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez hitless in nine at-bats and limiting Detroit to one hit in 11 at-bats with men on base. Sabathia's effort allowed the Yankees, who were aching for a victory, to exhale.
"It's the first week in April," said Sabathia. "It's hard to say this was a must-win game, but it feels good to win."
Throughout a draining Spring Training in which the Yankees were hampered by injuries, they continued to stress how their pitching would help carry them. Everyone from general manager Brian Cashman to Derek Jeter said that the Yankees would be successful because of their pitchers.
"Our pitching," said Jeter, "is outstanding."
But, before Sunday, the Yankees' pitching hadn't been outstanding. The Yankees had a 6.49 earned run average and had yielded 61 hits, which tied a franchise worst for the first five games of the season. Other than Andy Pettitte, no other pitcher had exceeded five innings in a start. Pettitte worked eight one-run innings last Thursday in defeating the Red Sox for the Yankees' first win of the season.
As much as the Yankees have focused on replacing the likes of Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, and having a sturdy offense, their potential recipe for success has been simple. In the two games where the Yankees received stellar outings from a starter, they have won. Obviously, getting solid starting pitching is a recipe for success for any team. Sabathia reminded the Yankees of that on Sunday.
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