CC “completes” Yankees’ sweep of Tribe

Now that was more like it. On the tail of a bruising homestand in which they lost two games to the Mets and two of three to the Red Sox, the Yankees ran the table against the Indians with CC Sabathia giving the bullpen Wednesday off to keep the relievers fresh for the 10-game, 11-day trip to the West Coast that begins Thursday night at Seattle.

Sabathia flirted with a perfect game into the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 6-4 victory in the finale of their first sweep in nine series since taking three straight games May 10-12 at Kansas City. The big lefthander retired the first 14 batters he faced – five on strikeouts and seven on balls in the infield – before Mike Aviles ended the string with a slicing single to left field with two down in the fifth.

The Yankee Stadium crowd of 42,477 gave CC a standing ovation at that point and continued cheering throughout the rest of the game even though the Yanks’ 6-0 lead they had built in the first two innings dwindled to a two-run spread after the Tribe scored two runs apiece in the sixth and seventh.

Even with that, Sabathia was in control. The two-run rally in the sixth was done with soft singles by the Indians – “well-placed hits,” as manager Joe Girardi said – and the only really hard hit was a two-run home run by Van Gomes in the seventh. Mark Reynolds hit a smoking line drive to right-center with two out and a runner on first in the eighth, but Ichiro Suzuki, who took over for Lyle Overbay in right field in the seventh, ran it down.

Girardi wanted to stay away from his relief corps if he could, which is why at the start of the ninth, “I told him to finish it.” CC obeyed with a 1-2-3 inning for his first complete game of the season and 36th of his career. He allowed seven hits and one walk with nine strikeouts

“It means a lot the way the bullpen has been taxed to give them the day off,” Sabathia said. “I have been feeling a lot stronger lately and feel I can throw the ball wherever I want.”

Sabathia improved to 26-11 in day game starts since 2009, the most daytime victories by a pitcher in the majors over that stretch, including 17-4 in day games at the Stadium. He held his opponent to one walk or less for the eighth time this season and has given up five bases on balls walks total over his last six starts covering 40 innings. This was CC’s first complete-game victory over Cleveland, the club that drafted him.

Travis Hafner joined Sabathia as former Indians to make it a long day for their old club. “Pronk” crushed a two-run home run into the second deck with two out in the first inning off Cleveland starter Corey Kluber. One inning later, Brett Gardner followed an RBI single by Chris Stewart with a three-run home run to create the six-run bulge.

Runs had been hard to come by for the Yankees the past week, but they seem to have no problem in that regard against the Indians. The Yanks outscored the Tribe, 17-11, in the series and 49-19 in the season series. The Yankees averaged 7.00 runs per game against the Indians and 3.67 per game against the rest of baseball this season.

The Yankees swept the home season series against the Indians in consecutive years for the first time since 2002 (3-0) and ‘03 (4-0). The Bombers have swept back-to-back home season series against any team for the first time since the Twins in 2008 (3-0) and ‘09 (4-0). The Yanks ended the regular season series against Cleveland with a 6-1 record (3-0 at the Stadium), have won six straight home games improving to 14-4 against the Tribe at the current Stadium and have won 35 of their past 49 games overall against the Indians since the start of the 2007 season.

Gardner with six home runs is one shy of his career high total from 2011. The Yankees are 18-3 when he homers. Gardner also had a sacrifice in the seventh inning, which marked the second time this year – and in his career – that he homered and sacrificed in the same game (also April 26 against the Blue Jays). He is the only major league player with more than one such game this season.

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