NEW YORK — The days of blowing fastballs past batters are a thing of the past for CC Sabathia.
A thing of the present for Sabathia is pitching well against the Boston Red Sox and ending a losing streak for the New York Yankees.
Sabathia did both Thursday night when he pitched six gritty innings as the Yankees opened a crucial four-game series against Boston with a 6-2 victory.
Sabathia (11-5) made his 250th start for the Yankees and beat the Red Sox for the fifth straight time. He also beat Boston for the 15th time since joining New York in 2009 but more importantly improved to 8-0 following a Yankee loss this season.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “I think it’s who he is and what’s made him so great for so long. It’s a guy that you’re able to count on most of his career after tough losses. There’s been a number of them, that we’ve had this year and it’s the guy that pitched and got us back on track.”
Sabathia’s latest win occurred after an ugly three-game sweep against the Cleveland Indians and prevented the Yankees from falling a season-high 6 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
“I don’t really think about that,” Sabathia said of pitching after a Yankee loss. “I just want to go out and have a good start every time out. It just so happens they were following the days we haven’t won before the night before but I’m not trying to put any extra pressure on going out and try to do too much. It’s just one of those things where it’s kind of working out like that this year.”
Although he achieved both things again, this was hardly easy for the veteran left-hander, who put runners on in five of six innings. He worked through the jams and limited the Red Sox to one run and four hits despite tying a season high with five walks.
Perhaps the biggest indication of Sabathia’s experience in these situations occurred in the opening inning. He was charged with a throwing error on Eduardo Nunez’s bunt before loading the bases by walking Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts.
The runners never scored as Sabathia fanned Xander Bogaerts on a 2-2 slider and left-handed hitting rookie third baseman Rafael Devers on a full count slider.
“I was just trying to move (it) around,” Sabathia said of getting Devers. “He’s a tough, tough at-bat. He’s a guy that’s got a good eye at the plate and he knows what he’s trying to do.”
Sabathia also had help from his defense and New York’s youthful bats.
Aaron Hicks threw out Benintendi trying to stretch his single into a double in the third and Gary Sanchez threw out the center fielder trying to steal second as Mookie Betts struck out to end the fifth.
Hicks’ throw occurred just before the Red Sox scored their first run on a ground ball by Bogaerts. Initially the play was ruled a double play but after Boston challenged, Betts was safe at second.
The Red Sox went 1-for-8 with men on base against Sabathia and were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They did not mount any kind of threat until loading the bases in the ninth off Dellin Betances and scoring their second run on a walk by Benintendi, who had few answers about their struggles against Sabathia.
“He’s thrown well against us,” said Benintendi, who reached base five times. He’s a tough pitcher.”
Sabathia pitched in a tight game before the Yankees added four runs in the sixth and seventh.
Sanchez drove in New York’s first two runs with his 28th homer in the third off Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5) and a bloop single to right field that fell in between second baseman Eduardo Nunez and Betts in the fifth.
Greg Bird slugged a two-run homer in the sixth off Rodriguez and added an RBI single in the seventh. Didi Gregorius drove in the other run with a single after Bird’s third homer of the season.
The Red Sox lost for the fifth time in eight games as Rodriguez allowed five runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings. He is 0-4 in his last 10 starts since May 26.
“Tonight, might have been his best power that he’s had in quite some time,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “But still it’s a matter of consistent execution.”
NOTES: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he expects the suspensions for Cs Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine to be staggered once their appeals are heard, which could be Friday. … 2B Dustin Pedroia (left knee inflammation) is expected to be activated off the disabled list Friday but Boston manager John Farrell said he won’t play a full game initially. … LHP David Price (left elbow inflammation) threw before the game and will throw a bullpen session Friday. … The Yankees acquired C Erik Kratz from the Cleveland Indians for cash considerations. Girardi said Kratz will likely join the team when rosters can be expanded Friday.