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Sabathia fans 10 Jays to earn win No. 19

NEW YORK -- His rotation mates may have other questions surrounding them, but CC Sabathia has not left much doubt about his pitching this season. On Tuesday, he proved he could in fact beat the Red Sox, and on Sunday, he proved that the 128 pitches he needed in that Boston start wouldn't have an adverse effect on his next outing.

The left-hander pitched 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball to bag his 19th win of the season as the Yankees downed the Blue Jays, 9-3, to complete a three-game sweep in the Bronx.

Sabathia struck out 10, walked one and threw 111 pitches, and he retired 13 of the final 14 batters to face him. The Yankees have won seven of eight and now sit 1 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox in the American League East.

Sabathia came up in the Cleveland Indians' system, and pitch counts there kept him to fewer than 90 pitches in his final season in the Minors. Those days are long gone, though manager Joe Girardi did say he lifted Sabathia earlier than he would have if not for Tuesday's start.

The departure cost Sabathia another crack at Jose Bautista, who is now 0-for-18 in his career against the lefty. It also cost Rafael Soriano, who relieved Sabathia and promptly served up Bautista's 40th homer this season.

"For me, once I'm in the game, I want to stay in the game," Sabathia said. "But I understand where [Girardi is] coming from."

As for the reasons for his success against Bautista, Sabathia said he didn't know. But the Yankees contained the Blue Jays' right fielder, and they cannot make that claim in many series against the Jays. The MVP candidate finished the series with two singles, a homer and an intentional walk.

"I feel like he's one of the best hitters in the league," Sabathia said "He's got 40 homers. He can hit doubles, he can hit homers, he has great at-bats. Hopefully, I can keep it up."

Sabathia got help from up and down the Yankees' lineup against Toronto starter Brett Cecil and the Toronto bullpen. Derek Jeter had a three-run homer in the third to give the Yankees some early breathing room, and he added a two-run single in the eighth to tie a career high with five RBIs. Jesus Montero, who recorded his first Major League hit Saturday, added two more singles to left field Sunday. Brett Gardner reached base four times without getting a hit -- he walked three times and was hit by a pitch.

"We got a lot of big names out there," Girardi said.

Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer and Alex Rodriguez hit a solo shot to right, though he initially reacted as though he had hit a fly ball.

"It was a fly ball to right field," Rodriguez said. "I got very lucky that ball sailed over the fence. I couldn't believe it."

Jeter, who rested Saturday, did not seem to think that helped him in Sunday's 2-for-5 performance.

"I've probably had some hits in back-to-back days, too," Jeter said. "I think it's a coincidence."

His manager, who rested Curtis Granderson on Sunday and plans similar time on the bench for other regulars, didn't think the day off hurt.

"I don't want to get in trouble with him," Girardi said. "But I think a lot of our guys, when they get a day off, they come back fresher."

Sabathia, working on his normal rest, gave up his only two runs in the fourth, but that inning also started a stretch of 10 straight outs recorded by the lefty. He allowed a leadoff single to Edwin Encarnacion and then walked Brett Lawrie before Mark Teahen doubled home a run. Sabathia then got two first-pitch groundouts -- the first by Jose Molina scored Lawrie -- before striking out Dewayne Wise to end the threat. No other Blue Jay reached until J.P. Arencibia singled with one out in the seventh. After Sabathia struck out Kelly Johnson to start the eighth, Girardi pulled him.

"I wasn't as concerned about 128 pitches [in his last start], because I've seen him do it before and I've always told you I think he's really strong," Girardi said. "I thought he was really good today. But the reason I didn't let him continue is that he had the 128 pitches."

The Yankees got their first run without getting the ball out of the infield. Gardner led off the first inning with a walk and stole second. After Jeter grounded out, Mark Teixeira singled to third. Lawrie threw wildly to first, allowing Gardner to score.

With the win, Sabathia became the first American League pitcher with 19 or more wins in three straight seasons since Oakland's Dave Stewart won 20 or more games in each season from 1987-1990. Sabathia, a Bay Area native, grew up rooting for Stewart.

With the Yankees set to stay with a six-man rotation, Sabathia doesn't know when his next start will come. He and his teammates would prefer to pitch on normal rest, but if 128 pitches doesn't affect Sabathia, an extra day between starts probably won't either.

"I'll do whatever they say," Sabathia said. "Whenever they tell me to take the ball, I'll try to go out and give the team its best chance, and that's all I can do."

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