TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays can expect to see a whole lot of CC Sabathia over the coming seven years and the big left-hander demonstrated Thursday just how formidable a challenge facing him is going to be.
The US$161-million man threw eight strong innings and was rewarded for his efforts when Hideki Matsui opened the eighth with a go-ahead solo shot that carried the New York Yankees to a 3-2 victory.
Signed during the winter to be the ace sorely lacked in the Bronx the past few seasons, Sabathia (3-3) delivered an effort befitting a No. 1, particularly in the seventh, when he escaped a first-and-third, one-out jam.
Scott Rolen opened the frame with a double and moved to third on Kevin Millar's fly ball to deep centre. Sabathia intentionally walked Rod Barajas before striking out John McDonald on three pitches, and after a walk to Marco Scutaro, got Aaron Hill on a fielder's choice to keep things tied.
Matsui's blast on a 2-2 offering from reliever Jesse Carlson (0-2) came immediately afterwards, stunning an enthusiastic and aggressively anti-Yankee crowd of 22,667 while sending the Blue Jays (23-14) to a loss in the rubber match of the three-game set with New York (17-17).
Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
Brian Tallet started for the Blue Jays and took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, which he couldn't hold. Brett Gardner opened the inning with a walk and Francisco Cervelli followed with a hit-and-run single through the vacated opening at shortstop.
That was all for Tallet, who left a first-and-third mess for Jason Frasor. Derek Jeter tied the game with a bloop single just over the glove of second baseman McDonald before Frasor got Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to escape the jam.
The Blue Jays built their lead on a solo shot by Alex Rios in the fourth and an RBI double by Rod Barajas in the fifth. Their hopes for more damage that inning were quashed when Gardner threw out Barajas at home as he tried to score on McDonald's single up the middle.
Sabathia otherwise had little trouble working through the lineup, and for a while it looked like he'd make an early 1-0 lead stand up.
The Yankees scored that run in the first, when Tallet walked the bases loaded after a Johnny Damon double and then forced in a run on another base on balls to Nick Swisher.
Tallet allowed two runs on four hits and five walks in his six innings, while Sabathia, coming off a four-hit shutout in his up-and-down start to the season, gave up five hits and four walks over his eight innings.
There was a scary moment in the fourth, when Vernon Wells was sawed off at the hands on a grounder to third base and the barrel of his bat struck a fan in the first above the Blue Jays dugout.
He was escorted from his seat with a towel covering an apparent cut on the back of his neck, but later returned to his seat.
Notes: The Blue Jays starting rotation appears set to remain as is through the weekend, with rookies Brett Cecil (1-0, 0.64) scheduled to go in Friday's series opener against the Chicago White Sox and Robert Ray (0-1, 6.00) slated for Saturday. GM J.P. Ricciardi was vague when asked about the pending return of starters Casey Janssen, Ricky Romero and reliever B.J. Ryan. Ryan? "Soon." Janssen? "Soon." Romero? "Not as soon." ... Former Blue Jays starter Josh Towers, who began the season in the Washington Nationals farm system, recently joined the Yankees' triple-A affiliate Scranton-Wilkes Barre. He gave up two solo shots over 4 1-3 innings in his first start Monday. ... Buffalo Bills QB Trent Edwards and WR Lee Evans took BP before the game and appeared in numerous promos on the videoboard. One triggered an "Argoooos" chant. ... Excellent heckle during McDonald's at-bat in the fifth: "Johnny be proud, you've got the same numbers as Teixeira."