- 142 wins
- 110 wins
NEW YORK -- There was really no chance that CC Sabathia would stay in Milwaukee after the 2008 season, but that didn't stop him from hoisting the Brewers across his broad shoulders, trying to carry them to their first World Series title.
A date with the Yankees was all but inevitable, and Sabathia's winning flourish seemed a fit for the Bronx. Celebrated by a standing ovation on Thursday, 13 strikeouts in his pocket and on the way to a 5-0 win over the Brewers, Sabathia never felt more at home in the Bronx.
"I was pretty nervous," Sabathia said, flashing a toothy grin. "I didn't think I would be. That was my team, and that was a special moment I had with them in 2008."
As Sabathia crossed the foul line with one out in the eighth inning, he heard the cheers of 46,903 fans savoring a pitching performance that had his old teammates thinking, "Yep, that's the same old CC we knew."
"He's got a lot of close friends on that team," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "CC could spend a week on a team, and you'd fall in love with his personality. That's the type of guy he is. I'm sure it's always fun to face your old teammates."
Saying that he felt more jitters than even in the 2009 playoffs with New York, Sabathia's idea of fun was tying his career high in strikeouts, which he set on Sept. 14, 2007, with the Indians against the Royals.
Sabathia racked up the most punchouts by a Yankees pitcher since Roger Clemens on June 3, 2002, leading New York to its 15th win in 19 games and a sweep of the Brewers on his way to claiming a share of the Major League lead in wins with 11.
"This is a big series," Sabathia said. "These guys are in first place, a really good-hitting team, and we pitched well against them. I just wanted to finish it off today, and we were able to do that."
Sabathia has received 10 or more runs of support in six starts this season, but he did not ask for a whole lot of assistance from his offense this time. Nor did his catcher have to do much coaching, just requesting a heavy fastball that certainly did the trick.
"I just put the glove and he throws," Francisco Cervelli said. "He's the king here. That's it -- just hit the target."
Robinson Cano hit a two-run double in the first inning to give the Yankees an early lead off Brewers lefty Randy Wolf. Mark Teixeira added his Major League-leading 25th home run of the season -- the 300th of his career -- in the third to make it 3-0.
"It's very cool, especially in a win," Teixeira said. "They're always important home runs if you can help out CC, and he didn't need much today."
Cervelli contributed RBI singles in the fourth and eighth innings, helping the Yankees prepare for a six-game trip that will see them pay visits to the Mets and Indians.
In winning his fourth straight start and his eighth in a span of nine outings, Sabathia struck out the side in the first inning and fanned two each in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Sabathia faced was in the third, as Prince Fielder dug in with the bases loaded and two outs. Sabathia whiffed Fielder, part of what would be a three-strikeout, hitless day for the slugger.
"It's like facing a Cy Young [Award winner]," Fielder said. "It's tough. It was real cool, though. Me and him are good friends."
As Fielder discarded his batting gloves and lumber, Sabathia acknowledged breathing a small sigh of relief.
"He's a great hitter -- one of the best in the National League, one of the best in baseball," Sabathia said. "To be able to get a strikeout there was big for us and big for the game."
The only batter Sabathia had trouble getting out was Ryan Braun, who hit three singles and drew a walk. That'll provide Braun with some ammunition the next time Sabathia fires a text message to a clubhouse that still talks about him in reverential terms years later.
"It's pretty cool to see those guys," Sabathia said. "You just try to make an impact, not even on the field, but just in the clubhouse."
Braun's single with two outs in the eighth brought in Boone Logan, and Sabathia was done after 118 pitches, 77 of which were strikes.
"Just a great performance by CC," Girardi said. "He was in control the whole day. The only thing that got him was his pitch count at the end."
Sabathia had no trouble leaning on those who followed him to wrap up the shutout, as Logan, resurgent in his role as the Yankees' lefty specialist, struck out Fielder upon entering in the eighth and Luis Ayala got the final three outs.
The moment when Sabathia towered over Girardi at the mound in the eighth, proud of his workload for the day, should be a feeling that the lefty should be used to after going 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.
But as Sabathia crossed the foul line, his workload done against some impressed and humbled old friends, the thrill of being the big man in New York still doesn't seem to have grown old for the left-hander.
"It felt good, especially here at Yankee Stadium, the biggest stage in baseball," Sabathia said.