After another dominant pitching performance gave the Yankees their first 10-game winning streak in a little over seven years, backup catcher Chris Stewart had the perfect description for what he has seen from Yankee pitchers recently.
“They’re all five aces,” Stewart said. “You can’t ask for anything better as a catcher.”
It is hard to argue, especially since Yankee starters own a 2.09 ERA over their 10-game winning streak following CC Sabathia’s complete game in last night’s 6-2 victory over the Braves.
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“It feels great, especially the way we’re playing,” Sabathia said. “It just gives you confidence you’re going to get the job done.”
Sabathia was the last Yankee to lose a game, pitching a fluky game where he struck out 12, but allowed five runs and seven hits on June 7 against Tampa Bay. Since that point, Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova have allowed 16 earned runs in 69 innings.
“These guys are pitching lights out,” Sabathia said. “You don’t want to be that guy because everyone is having good starts. We’re all pushing each other.”
Sabathia’s last start had not exactly been “lights-out” when he allowed 10 hits and four runs in seven innings last Tuesday against Atlanta. The Yankees eventually won that game by scoring six in the eighth, giving Sabathia the win.
In between that start and last night, he found a flaw in his delivery, fixed it and pitched with his most effective sinker of the year. He allowed only an RBI groundout in the first to Martin Prado and a run-scoring single to Michael Bourn in the fifth.
Then he completely shut them down, striking out six over the final four innings while allowing just one hit. He finished his 34th career complete game by striking out Jason Heyward on a slider out of the strike zone.
“It’s one of the better games I’ve caught him this year; if not the best,” Stewart said.
The best is an apt way to describe the Yankees’ performance since a rainy 6-0 loss to Kansas City on May 21. Since that point, they have won 20 of their last 24, which has taken their record from 21-21 to 41-25.
“It’s very difficult,” Derek Jeter said. “We’re playing some good teams. You don’t see 10-game winning streaks that often and like I said you just try to ride the wave as long as you can.”
“It’s not easy to do,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You play a lot of good teams during this streak and I think with all that’s gone on in baseball, the revenue sharing and all they’ve tried to do and make parity in baseball, the guys have just done a really good job of finding ways to win games and some of them have looked bleak at times. I’m proud of what they have done.”
Included in that run are 12 games decided by three runs or less, including seven during the winning streak and three of four against Atlanta.
And when a team is going that good, it’s only a matter of time before the big hit comes, even though Mike Minor held the Yankees without a hit for the first four innings.
“You figure that we’re going to find a way,” Girardi said. “He’s been tough on us and tonight the first four innings he was outstanding.”
“I know we’re going to fight until the end,” Russell Martin said. “We’ve been that way all season and we’re not going to stop now.”
Martin provided the initial spark against Minor, who also held the Yankees scoreless until the eighth last Tuesday in Atlanta. He started the decisive fifth inning with a ground-rule double to left field and then scored when Jeter bounced a full-count pitch up the middle for a two-run base hit.
“That inning we were able to get a couple of hits, but he threw the ball well,” Jeter said. “We were fortunate in that one inning.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.