BOSTON — It was less than two weeks ago when CC Sabathia contemplated retirement after injuring his right knee in Toronto.
Fortunately for his team, he changed his mind
“I know that he was pretty emotional that night because he thought he was heading for surgery,” New York manager Joe Girardi said after Sabathia came off the disabled list and outpitched Chris Sale while leading the Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night.
“We said, ‘Let’s just see.’ If you would have listened to the tone in his voice, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that (he’d be back).”
The pain subsided and Sabathia returned to beat the Red Sox for the third time in as many tries this season — going six innings and yielding two runs.
“I would have said, ‘No way.’ But everything’s worked out,” Sabathia (10-5) said after not only winning but also setting the American League record for career strikeouts by a left-hander. “I want to keep going out there and helping the team.”
As far as the knee, he said, “I felt it a little bit, but nothing like Toronto. I feel like where it’s at now I can manage.”
Sabathia passed Mickey Lolich with his 2,680th career strikeout, in the third inning. He has allowed two runs in 20 innings against Boston this season and this performance helped his team out after two crushing losses to the first-place Red Sox.
“I felt confident coming in,” he said. “But to be able to go out and pitch well against that team and get us a big win, feels really good.”
Sabathia improved to 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA after Yankee losses this season.
The win reduced Boston’s lead over the Yankees atop the American League East to four games.
The loss was only the third in 16 games for the Red Sox, while the Yankees have won five of their last six.
Tyler Austin crashed a three-run homer in his first career at-bat against Sale (14-5) in the second inning and Todd Frazier hit his second homer in as many nights for the Yankees.
“Anytime I give up two homers in a game, it’s not gonna work out so much,” said Sale, who has failed to beat the Yankees in four starts this season. “Solo shot’s not that big of a deal. But when guys get on base, I just gotta be better than that.”
Austin, robbed of extra bases by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fourth, doubled to lead off the ninth.
Adam Warren gave up a solo homer to rookie sensation Rafael Devers — his eighth home run in 20 major league games, in another two-hit game — in the seventh and David Robertson struck Xander Bogaerts out on three breaking pitches to end an eighth-inning threat created by a wild pitch on a strikeout that should have ended a 1-2-3 inning.
With Aroldis Chapman demoted from the closer role, Dellin Betances worked the ninth for his ninth save — and he also had to pitch around a strikeout/wild pitch. Gary Sanchez caught pinch runner Brock Holt stealing for the second out and Bradley flied out to end it.
“We have full confidence in his ability to steal a base right there, particularly in a 2-0 count where typically a pitcher is going to get a little bit longer to throw a strike,” Boston manager John Farrell said, “and Dellin is a guy that’s got a fairly long, if not long, unloading time. Sanchez threw a bullet right to second base. That’s an aggressive baserunning play and I think a calculated risk.”
Didi Gregorius had three hits for New York.
The Red Sox have scored five runs in Sale’s five losses. He went seven innings, allowing a season high-tying-four extra-base hits and striking out nine.
The Yankees went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 17 in that department in the two games, stranding 22 runners.
Aaron Judge struck out his last three times up to break a tie with former pitcher Bill Stoneman with a strikeout in 36 straight games. He also tied Adam Dunn’s record of 36 straight games with a K stretching over two seasons.
NOTES: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game he is taking LHP Aroldis Chapman out of the closer’s role as Chapman continues to struggle, saying, “I will use him at any point” and adding Chapman was OK with the decision. … The umpires were wearing dark blue sweatbands on their left arms in solidarity with their union, which is complaining over Ian Kinsler’s recent harsh words aimed at ump Angel Hernandez. Umps earlier in the day wore white bands. … RHP Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder inflammation) is tentatively scheduled to come off the disabled list to pitch for the Yankees in Detroit on Tuesday. … LHP Jordan Montgomery, whose innings are being watched, was sent back to Triple-A to make room for CC Sabathia. … RHP Sonny Gray faces the Red Sox for the first time in a Yankees uniform when he opposes RH Rick Porcello in Sunday’s series finale. … LHP David Price (elbow) received treatment and didn’t throw for a fourth straight day.