CC shuts down Mets; Yanks alone in first
Eight scoreless frames, Tex's slam the difference in series finale
NEW YORK -- The second-half surge has been one of CC Sabathia's specialties over the course of his career, and there are indications that the Yankees' ace is beginning to gear up for another one of those dashes.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Sabathia fired eight commanding innings of scoreless work, winning his fourth consecutive start, and Mark Teixeira provided all the necessary support with his fifth career grand slam as the Yankees shut out the Mets on Sunday, 4-0.
"I wasn't thinking, 'If you give me a run, the game is over,' but I had pretty good stuff," Sabathia said. "I felt like once we got the lead, I felt comfortable going out and continuing to pound the strike zone, getting swings early in the count."
Only a 22-minute rain delay after the top of the eighth could knock Sabathia out, as Mariano Rivera handled the last three outs in a non-save situation and moved the Yankees into sole possession of first place in the American League East for the first time since April 21.
With the Mets limited to just four hits, Sabathia remained undefeated through his last 14 starts at Yankee Stadium and said he actually felt stronger working in the midsummer steam, a familiar setting for a man who led the Major Leagues in wins after the All-Star break last season.
"He was really great," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it's global warming. In April, he had a great month and he's usually a slow starter. In May, he struggled. I don't know. It's such a fine line when you pitch on the corners and you're aggressive as he is."
Sabathia has worked with the Yankees' coaching staff to erase certain flaws that forced his pitches to cut, and the results are coming in. Using a new two-seam grip on his cutter instead of a four-seam handle, Sabathia outpitched his Mets counterpart, Johan Santana, walking two and striking out six in the process.
"I'm surprised he hasn't been more dominant like this throughout the year," said Mets catcher Rod Barajas. "This guy's got great stuff. He throws 94 miles an hour. He's got a good changeup, a good breaking ball. He moves the ball around, and when you've got dominating stuff like he does, he's one of the elite pitchers in this league. He has the capability to go out there every single game and do what he did."
Barajas was the central figure in one of Sabathia's biggest escapes of the afternoon. While his final line was sharp, it wasn't uneventful -- he allowed the leadoff man to reach base in innings four through seven, working out of trouble each time.
In the seventh, Ike Davis singled and Jason Bay walked, bringing up Barajas, who had previous success against Sabathia -- nine hits in 22 at-bats, including three homers and three doubles. Barajas also hit him well in the fifth inning, with Brett Gardner leaping near the left-field wall to take away an extra-base hit.
Knowing a one-run game could just be a swing away, Sabathia was looking for a double play, but instead caught Barajas looking at a 96-mph fastball. He then got the ground ball he desired, inducing Fernando Tatis to roll a changeup to Alex Rodriguez at third base for an around-the-horn double play.
"I just think I'm able to make pitches in spots," Sabathia said. "When I got Barajas up there, getting a strikeout and then the double play, in previous starts I wasn't able to make those pitches. Maybe I'd walk that guy and it'd turn into a big inning."
The Yankees lead the Major Leagues with seven grand slams, including two hit earlier on this homestand by Jorge Posada against the Astros, and the four-bagger Teixeira belted off Santana proved to be the difference on Sunday.
Gardner opened the inning with a single to left field, and Derek Jeter -- playing on a bruised heel that left him limping slightly on the bases -- legged out an infield chopper that third baseman David Wright couldn't whip to first base in time.
That sent up Nick Swisher, and Girardi offered the option from the dugout for Swisher to bunt on his own if he so desired. He dragged one up the first-base line that Davis scooped and threw to Santana on what might have been a close play, but Santana couldn't snare the toss, loading the bases.
"In a situation like that, I know I've got some big boppers coming up behind me," Swisher said. "Let those boys drive them in. It worked out well and you get rewarded for doing the right thing."
The ultimate bonus came when Teixeira turned on a 91-mph fastball and lasered a drive over the left-field wall, Teixeira's 12th home run of the year and second in as many games after taking Mike Pelfrey deep on Saturday.
That slam turned out to be the Yankees' only scoring against Santana, who scattered eight hits in six innings, walking one and striking out three.
"I didn't get all of it," Teixeira said. "I made sure I ran out of the box. It always helps when you hit good pitchers. You've got to give those guys credit. Santana and Pelfrey pitched real well the last two days. We got a couple homers off them, and that's all it took."
The victory was the Yankees' 9,500th in franchise history (since 1903) and completed the Subway Series against the Mets, splitting the six games between Yankee Stadium and the May Interleague series played across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge at Citi Field.
"They are playing great, they really are, and they played us extremely tough these six games," Girardi said. "There are no bragging rights until next year -- unless we're both fortunate enough to see each other a little later."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.