Older and wiser: C.C. settles, dominates
Lefty rebounds from tough start to lead Indians over Blue Jays
CLEVELAND -- Innings that might have created his undoing in years past now are mere bumps in the road to victory.Rain delays that might have cramped his style in his youth now are being used to his advantage. And even when teams are able to pounce on his blazing fastball, he's found he has plenty of pitches in the reserves on which to rely. On the whole, one could say it's pretty nice to be in C.C. Sabathia's shoes these days. In fact, it's pretty good to be an Indians player, in general. Behind Sabathia's impressive recovery from a rough first inning and an offensive outburst against A.J. Burnett, the Indians rolled to a 12-4 victory over the Blue Jays on a rainy Tuesday night at Jacobs Field. It was the club's eighth win in nine games. Just as important, it was the Tribe's sixth win in the six games Sabathia (4-0, 3.38 ERA) has started this season. "That's the biggest thing for me," Sabathia said. "As long as we win the games when I'm on the mound, I feel good. I don't care much about my personal record. I just want to be able to pitch in the playoffs. For me to do that, we're going to have to win pretty much every game I start." Before Jhonny Peralta backed him with five RBIs and the Indians pounced on Burnett and the Jays bullpen, Sabathia's start was off to the roughest of beginnings. Jays leadoff man Alex Rios torched him for a solo homer on a 2-1 pitch. Two outs later, Troy Glaus connected on a solo shot on a 2-2 offering. Then Aaron Hill came up and knocked out Sabathia's 3-1 pitch. All three blasts landed on the left-field home-run porch. And all three came on fastballs. "I was throwing the ball where I wanted, and they hit some good pitches," Sabathia said. "You've got to give them credit. They did a pretty good job of putting the bat on the ball in that first inning." It was the kind of inning that might have sent Sabathia into a downward spiral when he was a young pitcher still honing his game. But this version of the big left-hander knows how to quickly learn from and bounce back from his mistakes. "For as young as he is," manager Eric Wedge said, "he has a great deal of experience. He's been through a great deal, and he's done nothing but continue to mature and be the pitcher that you see him be right now." The Cleveland bats also have shown a great deal of maturity this season. Though they came into this game batting just .246 as a unit, the Indians have been deliberate in their attempts to see what the opposing pitcher has to offer. And on this night, Burnett offered them plenty of opportunities to jump on his fastball. "I didn't look for the breaking ball at all with him," Peralta said. Peralta's two-run double on a Burnett fastball capped a four-run burst from the Tribe in the third inning. The inning was sparked by Travis Hafner's two-run shot to the right-field seats -- his first homer at The Jake this season. But that was far from the only big inning the Indians strung together in this one. Peralta's three-run homer in the fifth made it a 7-3 ballgame and all but ended Burnett's night. He threw 115 pitches in just five innings. "Our guys have done a real good job of being patient, seeing pitches, working counts and putting up tough at-bats," Wedge said. "It's not just about getting hits and scoring runs. It's about making good outs, as well. Because if you do that, it's going to work better for the next guy or, later in the game, it's going to come back to help us." All the offense, which continued with Victor Martinez's two-run double off Brian Tallet in the sixth and Trot Nixon's three-run blast off Jason Frasor in the eighth, certainly helped Sabathia. Still, Sabathia did plenty to help himself after that whiplash-inducing first. With a 30-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first allowing him plenty of time to think about the mistakes he made, he returned to the mound in the second and stopped relying as much on the fastball. Rather, he began letting his changeup and cutter work for him. "I started mixing it up," he said. And the Jays looked a little mixed-up, as well. After Hill's homer, Sabathia retired 16 of the remaining 17 batters he faced, notching nine strikeouts along the way. Such a rebound, the 26-year-old Sabathia admitted, would have been difficult for him to put together back in the day. "I probably wouldn't have been able to come out and do what I did," he said. "I guess I'm getting older. I hate to say that, but I guess I am." If a stretch like this comes with old age, Sabathia is happy to accept it.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.