Sabathia strong in Yankees’ victory over Twins
NEW YORK — With a runner on and already pitching an hour after he was scheduled to start, CC Sabathia might have become upset watching Joe Mauer and Jorge Polanco bunt for base hits.
Not quite. No anger, no rage, just focus.
“Just try to make a pitch,” Sabathia said.
Sabathia made enough quality pitches and pitched two-run ball in six solid innings as the New York Yankees widened their lead in the American League wild-card race with a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Nearly three weeks after getting upset at Boston’s Eduardo Nunez for bunting to take advantage of the pitcher’s balky right knee, Sabathia (12-5) gave up a leadoff single to Brian Dozier. He then watched as Mauer and Polanco executed perfect bunts down the third base side.
Mauer’s ball capitalized on wet grounds from the 65-minute rain delay, hugged the foul line and stopped just in front of the foul line. Polanco’s ball required a nice play from third baseman Todd Frazier just to get a throw off and became a hit after a brief replay challenge.
After those bunts, Sabathia took care of things.
He held the Twins to one run in the first on a double-play grounder by Eduardo Escobar.
“If he gets a base hit there, it can be a huge inning, so just an outstanding job by CC,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Max Kepler drove Sabathia’s second pitch of the third inning into the second deck in right field for a 2-1 Twins lead, but Sabathia didn’t let it escalate.
The left-hander helped the Yankees (84-67) open a six-game lead on the Twins for the first wild card while remaining three games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
“Luckily my stuff was pretty good coming out of the bullpen because I had to make some pitches,” Sabathia said. “Everything kind of happened so quick that you don’t really have time. They were hacking and the bases loaded, got the double play, was able to make pitches and get out.”
The biggest pitch Sabathia needed was to Eddie Rosario with the bases loaded in the sixth. The Twins had second and third after Polanco stole second, and the Yankees intentionally walked Byron Buxton.
Sabathia’s next pitch was a 79 mph breaking ball and Rosario harmlessly lifted it into left fielder Brett Gardner’s glove.
“I thought he made a good pitch, and that’s a big out, too,” Girardi said.
Chad Green and David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning apiece before Aroldis Chapman recorded his 20th save.
Gardner also helped the Yankees win for the 14th time in 19 games with an RBI double and a run-scoring single. He finished 3-for-5. Aaron Judge lifted a sacrifice fly and scored his 118th run on a base hit by Starlin Castro in the sixth.
New York’s other run scored on an error by first baseman Mauer on a ground ball by Greg Bird in the fifth.
The Twins did little other than the bunts and Kepler’s first homer off a left-handed hitter. They lost for the second straight game despite holding New York to a combined 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the two contests.
“We came right out of the chute and put pressure on them,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We got one, but that’s all we got. You know your opportunities are going to be limited. You try to cash it in when you can.”
Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (12-8) labored through 3 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks. It matched his second-shortest start of the season.
“His fastball was really jumping, but it looked like he was trying a little bit too hard at times to get a little bit extra, and the command hurt him a little bit,” Molitor said.
NOTES: Twins 3B Miguel Sano (left shin) flew back to Minnesota on Tuesday night after dealing with a personal matter in New York. Manager Paul Molitor said he was unsure if Sano would be able to play rehab games in the Instructional League since the facility in Fort Myers, Fla., was damaged by Hurricane Irma. ... RHP Masahiro Tanaka will start Friday’s game at Toronto instead of Wednesday afternoon. RHP Luis Severino will pitch for New York on Wednesday against Twins RHP Bartolo Colon. ... New York LF Brett Gardner extended his hitting streak to 10 games.