Sabathia clings to lead for 200th career ‘W’

The memory was too recent for CC Sabathia to dismiss it. The lefthander was angry with himself last Friday night when he coughed up a 3-0 Yankees lead in the sixth inning and eventually lost to the Orioles, 4-3. Sabathia was so upset that he said afterward that he felt like he was wasting his starts the way hitters get on themselves for giving up at-bats.

Sabathia had to wait a while before he got a lead to work with Wednesday night, but considering the opponent was Minnesota it was only a matter of time. For the third straight night, the Twins lost the lead to the Yankees. Sabathia knew the feeling, and it was not going to happen to him if he could help it.

The 3-2 lead the Yankees grabbed in the sixth inning was safe in Sabathia’s left hand this time out. He pitched shutout ball in the sixth and seventh and was in position for his 200th career victory, which was preserved by David Robertson with a 1-2-3 eighth and Mariano Rivera, who gave up one hit in the ninth but won a duel with Joe Mauer for the final out and notched his 28th save.

After lashing out 24 hits over the previous two games at Target Field, the Yankees found hits tough to come by against Twins righthander P.J. Walters, who entered the sixth working on a one-hit shutout. Go ahead, guess who got the hit? Robinson Cano, of course, and he would come back to haunt Walters in the sixth.

The third time through the order proved difficult for Walters, who ended up sustaining his fifth straight loss. Brett Gardner began the inning with a leadoff walk. Ichiro Suzuki came inches from a home run on a drive off the right field fence and had to settle for a double. Moments later, Cano tied the score with a double to right. Hot? You could light a cigar off Cano the way he has hit on this trip – 14-for-24 (.583) with six straight multi-hit games, nine runs, two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI.

Cano had to stop at third base on a hard single to left by Travis Hafner, but Lyle Overbay got the job done and unlocked the score with a sacrifice fly to center field off reliever Caleb Thielbar. The rally followed a pattern of this series for the Yankees, who came back from deficits of 3-1 Monday night and 1-0 Tuesday night to win both games.

Sabathia (9-6) was reached for single runs in the third on an RBI double by Mauer and in the fifth on a solo homer by Trevor Plouffe. CC gave up seven hits in all and walked three batters, but he had nine strikeouts and held the Twins hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. Keeping the Twins from tacking on runs allowed Sabathia’s teammates room to take charge at some point, which they finally did in the sixth.

The Yankees certainly made the most of their hits. They had only four in the game – three of them in the sixth – and were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Newly-arrived infielder Luis Cruz made his Yankees debut at shortstop, the 42nd player used this season, and was 0-for-3 with an error.

Down in Charleston, S.C., Alex Rodriguez on the comeback trail from off-season left hip surgery had another 0-for-2 showing in a three-inning stint in a Class A game. He will go back to Tampa to play for the Class A team there starting Thursday.

General manager Brian Cashman could happily celebrate his 46th birthday as the Yankees moved back into third place in the American League East.

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