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NYY@TOR: CC pitches eight innings of one-run ball

TORONTO -- CC Sabathia has pitched in far bigger games and has fared better in them. So when asked about the pressures he faced heading into Saturday's start, the cool-under-pressure left-hander gave a wry smile and the right response.

"It's still July," Sabathia said.

Oh, but it wasn't just that.

The American League East-rival Blue Jays had just won five straight and had scored a combined 23 runs while beating the Yankees in their first two games of the second half. New York manager Joe Girardi needed Sabathia to pitch deep into the game, cool off a hot-hitting lineup and get his club back on track.

In allowing one run over eight innings, Sabathia -- an ace in the truest sense of the word -- gave Girardi all of that.

"To not win for a week, that's what it felt like, because we didn't play for three days," Girardi said after the Yankees' 4-1 victory at Rogers Centre. "You need a win. CC went out and got it for us."

Considering the roll Sabathia has been on lately, you wouldn't expect anything less.

Sabathia has now won seven straight games -- not to mention six in a row against the Blue Jays -- to match the second-longest streak of his career. He leads the Majors in victories with 14. He's 11-1 since May 19. And over his last seven starts, the left-hander's ERA is 1.68.

Sabathia barely acquired the designation of "All-Star" this year, but his teammates see him as something even greater than that.

"The last three months," first baseman Mark Teixeira said, "there hasn't been a guy better in baseball."

With the afternoon sun shining down on an open-roof ballpark, it was Sabathia's slider that was working particularly well.

Early on, though, Sabathia admittedly had nothing.

The Blue Jays got on the board against him in the first inning and in the process snapped Sabathia's scoreless-innings streak at 24 -- the longest by a Yankees pitcher since Tom Underwood notched 24 2/3 in 1980. But the burly lefty rolled from there, hurling seven straight shutout innings against a Jose Bautista-less lineup while surrendering just two hits and two walks in that span.

Sabathia retired 14 of the final 16 hitters he faced and finished scattering three hits and three walks while striking out eight.

As the game went on, Sabathia became tougher to hit.

"The fastball command got better," said Sabathia, who was coming off a shutout of the Rays. "I had runners on early because I didn't have it, but I threw everything off that. We stuck with it, and it ended up being a good start."

Yankees relievers had logged 10 1/3 shutout innings in the previous two games, so the club needed Sabathia to give the relief corps a break.

The Yanks had the right guy on the mound.

"That's why he gets paid big bucks," Blue Jays center fielder Rajai Davis said.

"It's a pleasure," Girardi added. "It's nice as a manager to pencil his name in every fifth day. He's been so good for us, and we've needed some big starts. You think about the starts that he's had for us, they've been huge."

The Yankees were sparked offensively by Brett Gardner, who notched two doubles, scored a run and finished 3-for-4 to record his second three-hit game of this series -- both against lefty starters.

Against Ricky Romero, who came in with a 2.59 ERA in his last 11 starts, the Yankees scored two in the second on a single by Andruw Jones -- his fifth RBI in two games this series -- and a run-scoring groundout by Eduardo Nunez.

The Yankees then increased their lead on an errant throw home by second baseman Aaron Hill in the third and an RBI infield single by Derek Jeter in the fourth.

That was plenty for Sabathia.

"It's like [Mariano Rivera] in the ninth," Teixeira said. "You just figure he's going to get it done, the way CC has been pitching lately. You give him a couple-run lead, you like your chances."

The Yankees moved to 6-6 in July, 6-5 against the Blue Jays and a Major League-best 27-5 in day games.

Sabathia finished the seventh inning with 94 pitches under his belt, but there was never any doubt that he'd be coming out for the eighth inning.

In that frame, the 30-year-old gave up a double to John McDonald but got Davis to bounce out to Jeter, then got the hot-hitting Eric Thames to line out to Gardner in center field.

Sabathia finished with 110 pitches -- 74 of them for strikes -- and said he wasn't really worried about the recent issues made of the Blue Jays allegedly stealing signs.

It was all about the task at hand.

"I don't think that's something you can really do anything about," Sabathia said. "We don't know what's going on; we don't know if they are or if they aren't. Just go out and try to pitch."

Over the last couple of months, few have done that better. Comments