NEW YORK (AP) — CC Sabathia had just gotten the first out of the fourth inning when he pulled up his right pants leg, then unstrapped and unscrewed the large black brace that has supported his knee during starts since September 2015. The strap had broken, and the burly 6-foot-6 lefty would have to pitch without it.
“I was watching every pitch on his landing leg,” New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said later. “Yes, it did make me nervous.”
Sabathia allowed an infield hit but got out of the inning with a double-play grounder. He went on to win fifth straight start and beat Rick Porcello in a matchup of Cy Young Award winners , an 8-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night.
“That was really weird. It was scary,” Sabathia said. “But I didn’t feel any pain.”
Chris Carter drove in four runs with a three-run homer and an RBI single. Sabathia (7-2), who had last won five in a row in April 2012, allowed five hits in eight innings, his longest outing since April 2015.
Yankees head athletic trainer Steve Donohue repaired the brace in time for the fifth. Josh Rutledge led off with a drive to center field for a triple, but Sabathia then retired his final 12 batters. He walked none and struck out five — four of them looking.
A month from turning 37, Sabathia hasn’t been dominant since the last of his six All-Star seasons in 2012. He had a bone spur removed from his left elbow that October and right knee surgery in July 2014.
“Being hurt was the biggest thing and just not knowing my future, especially at my age,” he said.
After an inconsistent 2016 and mixed results in his first seven outings this year, he has a 1.11 ERA during his streak, rediscovering an ability to throw his cutter inside to right-handed hitters.
“It helps with the backdoor slider and the changeup,” he said.
All five wins followed losses by Masahiro Tanaka
“There’s a lot of heart in that guy,” Girardi said. “He’s always been that guy that is a fierce competitor, and when you have that in you, you have the ability to make changes and to figure things out.”
Sabathia made a bare-hand grab of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s fifth-inning comebacker after Rutledge’s triple, a ball that came off the bat at 98 mph.
“That was the big turning point in the game,” Girardi said.
Jonathan Holder followed Sabathia with a perfect ninth. Boston’s final 15 hitters went down in order.
Didi Gregorius hit a go-ahead home run starting the third and Carter homered for the second straight day , a fourth-inning drive that followed Starlin Castro’s leadoff triple and an RBI single by Gary Sanchez.
Boston right fielder Mookie Betts robbed Carter of another homer in the sixth, leaping and getting his glove above the 8-foot wall for a sparkling catch. A fan touched the ball before it landed in Betts’ glove, and umpires concluded Girardi did not ask for a video review within the 30-second window.
“I felt I was going to catch it, regardless of hitting the guy’s hand or not,” Betts said.
Carter, New York’s No. 9 batter, had three hits, including a run-scoring single off the left-field wall in a two-run eighth. New York stopped Boston’s three-game winning streak and reopened a two-game lead over the second-place Red Sox in the AL East.
Porcello (3-8) lost his third straight start, giving up six runs — five earned — and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. On Monday, he attended the dedication of Porcello Field at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, New Jersey, where he was 10-0 as a senior in 2007.
“It’s execution of pitches,” Porcello said. “I haven’t been very consistent.”
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