AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ This hasn’t been the smoothest of seasons for
C.C. Sabathia. He’s still coming through when it counts for the New
York Yankees.

Sabathia struck out 10 batters over eight innings and New York
beat the Minnesota Twins 8-2 on Wednesday to remain 1 1/2 games
ahead of Baltimore in the AL East.

The Orioles beat Toronto 12-2 on Wednesday night. The Yankees
visit the Blue Jays for four games starting Thursday. Baltimore,
after an off day, plays Boston at home this weekend. Sabathia will
pitch again next week when the Yankees host the Red Sox.

“This is what he can do. He can string a bunch of good ones
together. And if there’s a time, now’s the time,” manager Joe
Girardi said.

Sabathia (14-6) threw 89 of his 118 pitches for strikes,
including three straight to Twins All-Star Joe Mauer for the second
of his three strikeouts in the fourth inning. Mauer, who began the
day three points in the batting race behind Detroit’s Triple Crown
chaser Miguel Cabrera with a .326 average, went 0 for 4.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him, and I’ve been watching him for
a long time,” Mauer said. “When I was up there he was both sides
of the plate: fastball, slider, sinker. He threw me everything, and
everything was working.”

Sabathia spent two stints on the disabled list this summer, for
a strained left groin and an inflamed left elbow. This was his
first win in six starts, and he credited impeccable command of his
fastball to set up his other pitches.

“We’re in a race. We know it’s going to be tough. So you want
to go out and do well every time out,” Sabathia said, adding:
“Hopefully, I can go out and pitch well again the next time. I’ll
take what I can out of this one and be ready to go five days from

Robinson Cano hit a two-run double and Curtis Granderson added a
two-run triple during a six-run third inning against Brian Duensing
(4-11), and Sabathia took care of the rest. The burly lefty gave up
six hits, two runs and one walk.

Sabathia improved to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last 11
appearances against the Twins, including the 2009 and 2010
postseason. He threw eight scoreless innings in his last start
against Oakland, striking out 11, but didn’t get the victory
because the Yankees won in the 10th. Matt Carson and Pedro Florimon
had RBI singles, but that was about the only solid contact Sabathia

Chris Dickerson also hit a two-run homer for the Yankees, who
lost to the Twins on Tuesday night and played without third baseman
Alex Rodriguez, who has a bruised left foot. Derek Jeter’s 19-game
hitting streak ended with an 0-for-4 afternoon, but he walked and
scored in the third.

The Yankees enjoyed a tension-free afternoon while winning for
the 12th time in their last 16 games. Even the bad plays turned out
all right.

Granderson was picked off first base in the second inning, but
he scored on a wild pitch in the third.

Eric Chavez, thinking there were two outs instead of one in the
fifth inning, casually fielded a grounder at third and stepped on
the base for the force as he jogged toward the dugout before
stopping and realizing his mistake. Sabathia shouted assurance to
Chavez, whose embarrassed “oops” expression was frozen on the
jumbo video screen above left-center field to the crowd’s

“I’m glad they were entertained,” Chavez said, smiling.

But after a passed ball by Chris Stewart put runners at second
and third and threatened to exploit Chavez’s blunder, Sabathia
calmly retired Denard Span on a groundout to first to keep the lead
at 6-1. If Chavez had tried to turn the double play, he might’ve
only got one out anyway, Girardi said, which would’ve led to a run
on the passed ball.

“Sometimes things work out right,” Girardi said.

After a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez in the sixth, Dickerson
circled the bases with his drive off Anthony Swarzak, who was the
second long reliever called on by the Twins.

Starter Samuel Deduno struck out two without a hit or a run
despite two walks. After the second one, though, Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire and assistant athletic trainer Dave Pruemer came to the
mound for a long talk with the right-hander with two outs in the
second inning. The diagnosis was irritation in his left eye, and
Deduno was removed for Duensing.

He put seven straight runners on, including two walks, before
finishing the inning. Duensing, who started a postseason game
against the Yankees in 2009 and 2010, let his ERA rise from 4.68 to

“I feel like we’re playing our best ball now, and this is the
perfect time to be doing that,” said Nick Swisher, who had an RBI

NOTES: RH Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) pitches for the Yankees on
Thursday against RH Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA) of the Blue
Jays. The Twins are off on Thursday before hosting Detroit this
weekend. They’ll send LH Scott Diamond (12-8, 3.64 ERA) to the
mound on Friday, opposite RH Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.82 ERA) of the
Tigers. … The Yankees have homered in each of their last 12 games
against the Twins, totaling 25 in that span. … The Yankees
notched their 90th win for the 15th time in the last 17 seasons.
… Swisher made a nifty scoop and throw to get Ben Revere out on a
slow roller in the first inning. He’s been playing 1B with Mark
Teixeira rehabilitating his strained right calf. “I’m just trying
to keep it warm until my boy Tex gets back,” Swisher said. Girardi
left open the possibility of Teixeira returning to the team this
weekend in Toronto.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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