Dominant Sabathia holds M's in check
Eight shutout innings set stage for Wickman's record save
SEATTLE -- The Indians were counting on left-hander C.C. Sabathia to salvage the rubber game of their three-game series here Sunday with Seattle. Sabathia didn't disappoint."He was outstanding," manager Eric Wedge said. To argue to the contrary would be to argue nonsense. For any description of Sabathia's 2-0 win over the Mariners had to include words like "outstanding," though plenty of other descriptions come to mind. Wedge was quick to provide them, too. "He was under control the entire game," he said of Sabathia. "He mixed his pitches. He was working ahead, had a good fastball and was able to reach back a few times when he needed to reach back and get a little bit more." Essentially what Sabathia did was pitch. He was less the flame-thrower of his earlier Major League days. He looked more like the pitcher who'd carried the Indians on his broad back last September. At times Sunday, Sabathia made pitching seem downright effortless. He worked over the Mariners with a surgeon's touch. He scattered seven hits, and he did something that he and Wedge always talk about a pitcher doing better: finishing off innings. "I got a couple quick outs early and was able to get that third out without giving up a walk or a hit and having two outs with a runner on," Sabathia said. He did use that as a formula for his success. And he needed to have success -- and plenty of it -- if he hoped to keep the Tribe in the game. For Sabathia was facing Jarrod Washburn, a veteran left-hander who brought his best stuff and proved nearly Sabathia's equal. Washburn worked seven innings and allowed just four hits. Two of those hits led to runs, though. The first came in the third on Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly that scored Ronnie Belliard. In the seventh, Belliard knocked in the game's second run. He rifled a double down the left-field line that scored Travis Hafner, whom Washburn had walked to start the inning, from first base. None of that left Sabathia with room for mistakes. The Mariners showed a night earlier that they could hang tough in a pitchers' duel. They got the best of the Tribe then, riding right-hander Joel Pineiro's fine work to a 4-1 win. The Indians had no reason to think that the Mariners weren't capable of pushing across a few runs in a tight ballgame like this one. In the fifth, the Mariners threatened to do just that. Sabathia, clinging to a 1-0 lead, gave up singles to Kenji Johjima and Jose Lopez, whose careless baserunning got him gunned down at second as Johjima cruised into third. Sabathia then struck out Yuniesky Betancourt swinging, which brought the dangerous Ichiro Suzuki up to face Sabathia. "That was probably the biggest point of the game," he said of facing Ichiro. "He does pretty good against me. Ichiro, who entered Sunday hitting .419 against Sabathia, wouldn't have success this time. Sabathia got him to ground to Jhonny Peralta at short to end the threat. "It was good to get Ichiro out," Sabathia said. That was about the only hurdle Sabathia faced as he plowed through the Mariners lineup. He went eight innings, turning a 2-0 lead over to closer Bob Wickman, who recorded three outs in the ninth to set a club record for career saves. That's all Wedge could ask of his 25-year-old ace. "He pitched smart," Wedge said. "We talked about starters finishing off innings, whether it be the sixth or the seventh or, in C.C.'s case today, the eighth inning and getting through that. He did a good job of that."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.