NEW YORK (AP) — CC Sabathia carried a shutout into the seventh inning during his sparkling return from the disabled list and the steamrolling New York Yankees got an early three-run homer from Andruw Jones in a 6-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
Sidelined since June 24 because of a groin strain, Sabathia (10-3) silenced a Toronto lineup minus All-Star slugger Jose Bautista, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day. The good news for Bautista and the Blue Jays is that the wrist injury he sustained Monday isn’t as severe as initially feared, so he hopes to be back before long.
The first-place Yankees hardly missed a beat without Sabathia, going 12-6 while their ace was out and extending their AL East lead to a season-high nine games heading into Tuesday. He went on the DL the same day fellow left-hander Andy Pettitte broke his ankle, but New York just kept rolling right along.
Jayson Nix had three hits in a rare start at third base and Derek Jeter dumped an RBI double inside the right-field line during a three-run seventh that gave the Yankees breathing room. Chris Stewart also had a run-scoring double in a rally that was aided by some shoddy play in the corners by Blue Jays outfielders.
New York manager Joe Girardi was a little concerned Sabathia might feel too strong after his three-week layoff. But the six-time All-Star flashed a sharp slider and permitted only four hits in six-plus innings. He struck out six and walked one, working around a leadoff double in the second.
The burly Sabathia threw 66 of 87 pitches for strikes on a 95-degree night and walked off to a warm ovation after Adam Lind’s leadoff single in the seventh. Five relievers finished up, with Chad Qualls allowing Colby Rasmus’ sacrifice fly in the eighth.
Rafael Soriano entered with the bases loaded and earned his 24th save in 25 attempts when pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia lined into a game-ending double play.
The runner doubled off first base to end it was speedy prospect Anthony Gose, just called up from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill Bautista’s roster spot. Gose made his big league debut as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and got his first career hit on a butcher-boy infield single back to the mound in the ninth.
New York (56-34) has won eight of 10 to move a season-best 22 games over .500, the best record in the majors. The Yankees are 35-13 since May 22, including 17-6 at home. They improved to 10-2-1 in their last 13 series.
Sabathia’s successful return overshadowed an encouraging outing by Brett Cecil (2-2), who entered with a 6.75 ERA in five major league starts this year. The 26-year-old lefty, demoted to Double-A New Hampshire at the beginning of the season, held the powerful Yankees in check for six innings and retired his final eight batters. He struck out five and walked two.
Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to a career-best 20 games with a leadoff single in the second. Nick Swisher walked and Jones pulled a drive into the left-field corner for his 12th homer.
It was New York’s 145th home run, most in the majors and a franchise record for the first 90 games of a season.
NOTES: Girardi did not rule out the possibility of closer Mariano Rivera (knee surgery) returning before the season ends. “He didn’t say he was definitely going to make it back,” Girardi said. “He’s trying, and my anticipation is it’s going to be very difficult because it’s a short period of time. But we’ll see what happens.” — LF Brett Gardner was scheduled for an MRI after a third setback in his recovery from a strained right elbow that has sidelined him since April 18. — RHP Joba Chamberlain (ankle) made his third rehab appearance with the GCL Yankees, striking out two in a scoreless inning. — Alex Rodriguez was the DH for the second consecutive night but the plan is for him to play third base Wednesday, with Jeter possibly starting at DH, Girardi said. — Ben Francisco started in RF for the Blue Jays in place of Bautista. Gose, a left-handed hitter, was expected to start Wednesday against RHP Hiroki Kuroda. — To make roster room for Sabathia, the Yankees designated OF Darnell McDonald for assignment. — Blue Jays LHP Luis Perez had elbow ligament replacement surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida.