04/17/10 12:16 AM ET
Rain can't dampen Sabathia's dominance
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Luckily for the Yankees, Sabathia was just as dominant on Friday as he was on Sunday, taking advantage of a free-swinging Rangers lineup to record nine strikeouts and log a rain-shortened, complete-game, 5-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.
Though he was aware of the pregame weather reports, which showed a large green blob quickly approaching the Bronx, Sabathia paid little attention, instead focusing on what he has done well through three starts -- attack the zone and make hitters look silly.
"Usually I get off to a pretty slow start, but my stuff is right where I want it to be right now," Sabathia said. "I just need to keep it going, keep working hard and try to keep it going the rest of the year."
In his last effort, against the Rays at Tropicana Field, it took Sabathia 7 2/3 innings before he found a batter who could get into the hits column, as old friend and former Tribe batterymate Kelly Shoppach served a sharp single into left field.
The Rangers had better luck against the $161 million ace, notching a knock in the first inning, but that isn't to say Sabathia made things easy; not on a night when he said his two-seamer felt about the same as it did under the Trop's quirky catwalks.
"Basically, he picked up where he left off," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "When it's raining and the ball is always wet, he can strike out everybody he wants to."
Sabathia obliged by whiffing six consecutive batters through one stretch. Vladimir Guerrero's first-inning sacrifice fly accounted for the only Texas run, as Sabathia walked none and scattered three hits in the soggy 73-pitch effort.
"That's about as good as we've seen him," manager Joe Girardi said. "He was outstanding tonight, and that's great for us, because our bullpen was a little short anyway. It worked out really nice."
Girardi said that Sabathia "is a strike machine" when he's on, and efficiency was indeed a key for the left-hander, who fired his first 12 pitches for strikes and hurled first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 22 Rangers he faced. He retired 17 of the last 19.
"I felt pretty good," Sabathia said. "They swung a lot early in the count and I was just trying to get ahead and expand off the plate. It definitely helped me out a lot tonight."
"I can see why he always pitches deep into games," said the Rangers' Michael Young. "He comes out and pounds the strike zone."
The game was called after a delay of one hour and five minutes, the Yankees' first rain-shortened game since Sept. 2, 2006, vs. the Twins, but Sabathia did his best to make the outcome a near-certainty even before the showers started.
"He did everything. I put the glove [down] and that's it," catcher Francisco Cervelli said. "It's what I do every time I catch. I put [down] the glove, and he throws. It's outstanding. When he's attacking the zone, they've got problems. He was throwing nasty pitches today, man."
"My pitches are doing what they're supposed to be doing," Sabathia said. "Cervy and I had good sequences the last couple of games. I feel pretty good. I just want to keep it going."
No stranger to this exercise after several rain-affected games during Yankee Stadium's maiden season, Girardi said that the reports that filtered through his office hinted that unplayable rain would probably come sometime after 9 p.m. ET, which it did.
Another band of showers had been forecast to hit the Bronx at approximately 5:45 p.m., but that one broke up, so the two teams took the field in what was generally light drizzle up until the middle innings.
After Jeter scampered home with a first-inning run off Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson on a passed ball, the Yankees took the lead in the fourth inning, helped by a Chris Davis throwing error that permitted two runs to score.
With the bases loaded and one out, Curtis Granderson hit a grounder to the right side. Davis made a diving stop, but his throw to second base struck Nick Swisher in the back and rolled into left field, allowing Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to score.
"You like to do that -- any time the other team scores, you come right back," Jeter said. "We have a good offense. We have an offense that's capable of scoring runs quickly."
Cervelli tacked on a run-scoring single in the fourth to give the Yankees a three-run lead, and Jeter notched an RBI in the sixth when his infield bouncer tapped off Wilson's glove and scored pinch-runner Brett Gardner.
Jeter and Cano each hit safely, extending their hitting streaks to 10 games to start the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the double-play combination became the first Yankees tandem to hit safely in the first 10 games of the season; the Rays' Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford did it most recently in the big leagues, in 2003.
"It carried over what they did last year, when they both got 200 hits," Girardi said. "They both have had big hits, they've swung the bat extremely well, they've gotten off to great starts.
"Not everyone is going to get off to great starts, but if you have enough guys that get off to good starts and you have good starting pitching, you can start the season where we are."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.