Reaching 90 wins is possible for the Yankees but it becomes more unlikely every time CC Sabathia struggles or the offense has a quiet night.
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They didn’t have to worry about either Tuesday night.
Sabathia avoided a career-high seventh straight winless start and Alfonso Soriano drove in a career-high six runs as the Yankees reached double figures in runs for the fourth time this season in a 14-7 victory over the Angels.
Sabathia’s first win since getting No. 200 July 3 at Minnesota saw him finish with a respectable enough line of three runs (two earned) and two hits in six-plus innings. It also saw him labor at various points as he threw 51 of his 110 pitches in the first and third respectively.
“I thought CC was excellent,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He probably should have pitched about eight innings with the outs he got. We gave him a lot of extra outs but he kept them in check.”
It is what Sabathia did during the portions of the game that were close that led Girardi to appreciate more about what Sabathia did than the offense, which homered for the fourth straight game and had its most productive night at home since the final game of the 2012 regular season.
“I was really pleased with what CC did tonight, but I’ll take 14 runs,” Girardi said.
Sabathia used some variation of the word battle several times after the game and despite the final score it was a battle for most of the night.
“[I was] just battling,” Sabathia said. “I felt like I had pretty good stuff. [I was] just trying to make pitches. I got into some trouble and I was able to make the pitches and get outs but it was just a battle.”
Sabathia also bent a little after getting the lead on Soriano’s fourth home run in the fifth. He walked ex-Yankee Chris Nelson and Grant Green, setting up first and second with one out.
At that point, Sabathia was at 96 pitches. He reached his 100th pitch on a 3-0 foul ball just out of the reach of first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Preston Claiborne began warming up and Sabathia went to his changeup to get a full count. He went back to his fastball and it was fouled off between Overbay and Robinson Cano.
Sabathia threw a changeup and it dropped below the knees, loading the bases for Tommy Field. Sabathia got ahead 0-2 and appeared to allow a game-tying sacrifice fly but umpires ruled Nelson left the bag too early, leaving Angels manager Mike Scioscia puzzled.
“I don’t know how he could have seen it, first of all,” Scioscia said. “If he did see it, his foot was on the bag when he caught the ball. A runner’s body will move. That’s the way you teach it, you get momentum, get your body going. Your foot is on the bag until the ball is caught.
“I thought Chris did it perfectly and I just don’t know how he had any angle to see that or any ability to make a call like that.”
That seemed to take the life out of the Angels as the Yankees added four runs in the sixth while facing three relievers. Alex Rodriguez and Soriano delivered big hits in tandem nine years after they were traded for each other.
Soriano added an RBI single to make it 6-3 and Rodriguez capped the inning with a two-run double off the base of the left-field wall. The Yankees then surged way ahead, reaching double digits for the first time since July 1 and first time at home on Soriano’s three-run home run to right field.
“It's good,” Soriano said. “I've been struggling at home plate the last couple of games. I never give up. I'm always working hard on my timing and on my hitting and finally I had a good game.”
Soriano finished with his 34th multi-home run game, seventh as a Yankee and first with the team since Sept. 22, 2003 when scoring double-digit runs was as infrequent as it has been this season.
“It [felt] more like the old days,” Soriano said. “We scored 14 runs tonight. So I hope you can do that more often. I know it's not going to happen every day. I hope that we continue playing like we did tonight.”
The Angels tacked on four runs in the ninth against Dellin Betances, including a three-run home run by Mike Trout.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.