CLEVELAND — C.C. Sabathia appears to have figured out what ailed him through his first four starts of the season. But the ace’s reversal of fortunes didn’t do the Indians any good Sunday against the Yankees and Chien-Ming Wang.
Though Sabathia eased plenty of fears around the organization with his second consecutive ace-like effort, Cleveland couldn’t capitalize on the performance, thanks to a top-shelf outing from New York’s No. 1 starter, who helped the Yanks past the Indians 1-0.
Sabathia, who was abysmal through his first four outings after winning the American League’s Cy Young Award in the offseason, allowed just a run on four hits, while striking out eight through eight innings.
Wang lasted an inning less, but was every bit as dominant, shutting out an improved Indians offense on four hits, while striking out nine batters.
“C.C. was great. It was just a heck of a pitching duel,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who saw his team’s season-high winning streak end at five games with just its third loss in 10 games. “You’re not going to see better pitching than what you saw today. One swing of the bat was the difference.”
A solo home run from Melky Cabrera with one out in the fifth inning won it for the Yankees, but one run probably wouldn’t have been able to beat Sabathia on any other day.
“I can’t say enough about C.C.’s effort against a tough lineup, as everybody knows,” Wedge said. “He went out there and pitched. He deserved a better fate, but you have to acknowledge what the guys on the other side did.”
Over his last two outings, Sabathia (1-4, 7.88) has allowed just an earned run on eight hits, while striking out 19 over 14 innings.
“I feel better. I feel back,” Sabathia said. “You can never predict what’s going to happen the rest of the season, but I’m going to try and stay in control, stay in my delivery and keep filling up the strike zone.”
Sabathia allowed just a hit through the first four innings, retiring 10 of 11 batters after walking Alex Rodriguez with two outs in the first — the only hitter reaching on an error from first baseman Ryan Garko. After allowing the solo homer to Cabrera, Sabathia retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced.
And he still tasted defeat.
“It’s definitely frustrating to lose,” Sabathia said. “We don’t get shut out that much (twice this season). But Wang was pitching pretty good, so you have to live with it.
“All I want to do is keep us in games, and I feel I did a pretty good job of that today.”
Sabathia, who was booed by his hometown fans after offering up poor performances in two previous starts in Cleveland, was cheered by the Progressive Field faithful for the duration of the outing.
“I don’t ever criticize anyone for booing,” Sabathia said. “When you pitch bad, they boo. When you pitch good, they cheer. I just have to keep pitching good.”
Wang drew few cheers from the 31,598 fans in attendance, and his effort could be described as better than good.
The right-hander, whom the Indians beat twice rather handily in two Division Series starts last year, allowed all of his hits within the first five innings.
Cleveland put the leadoff hitter aboard in four of the five innings, but Wang pitched out of it each time, his best work coming when he allowed a leadoff single to Victor Martinez in the fourth, then struck out Garko, Jhonny Peralta and Casey Blake in succession.
Wang (5-0, 3.23) retired seven of the last eight hitters he faced, with Garko the only to one to reach after being hit by a pitch.
“You knew it was going to be a low-scoring game,” said right fielder Jason Michaels, who doubled to lead off the third but stayed on the bases after Wang retired three more in order. “Those are two of the best pitchers in the game.”
Wedge called Wang’s performance the best by an opposing starter all year.
“His ball was moving all over the place,” Wedge said. “He was tough today.”
Sabathia didn’t get the win, but he did become the all-time leader in starts at Jacobs/Progressive Field with 110, surpassing Charles Nagy (1990-02). Nagy is still the career leader in wins at the park (50) with Sabathia at 43.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. N.Y. Yankees
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Laffey (first start) vs. Mussina (2-3, 4.94 ERA)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio, ESPN; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM