NEW YORK (AP) — Maybe it was the unusual warm weather. For a change, April suited CC Sabathia.
The notoriously slow starter shook off early trouble to get his first win of the season and backup catcher Chris Stewart had a career-high three RBIs that included a go-ahead, two-run single in New York’s 8-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Sabathia is 18-14 through April in a dozen major league seasons, including 7-4 since joining the Yankees in 2009. During the rest of the regular season he’s 169-82.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said.
Sabathia (1-0) allowed three runs and four hits in 7 1-3 innings with seven strikeouts and one walk. After falling behind 3-1 in the third, he didn’t allow another hit and retired 13 in a row during one stretch. He credited pitching coach Larry Rothschild with telling him after the third to throw more over the top.
“Fastball command got a lot better,” the big left-hander said. “Everybody knows I throw everything off my fastball. Changeup got a lot better. Curveball was really good tonight, too.”
While Sabathia is one of the Yankees’ stars, Stewart may be their least-known player. After stints with the Chicago White Sox and Texas, he played one game for New York in April 2008 and spent the rest of the year and all of 2009 in the minors. He went on to San Diego and San Francisco, then was reacquired by the Yankees just before opening day.
Now 30, Stewart got his second start of the season and put the Yankees ahead 4-3 when he chased Francisco Liriano (0-2) with a two-run single in the four-run third. He added an RBI single in the seventh against Jeff Gray for his most productive day at the plate in six big league seasons.
“Not only one of my best nights, but it was in Yankee Stadium of all places, and I’m wearing pinstripes,” he said proudly. “It’s awesome. Definitely one I’m not going to forget.”
Liriano wants to forget this one, his third straight poor outing. He allowed five runs, seven hits and four walks in 2 1-3 innings.
“Nothing is bothering me. I’m 100 per cent healthy,” he said. “I’m just missing my spots and pitching behind the count and you get hurt, especially with hitters like that.”
Liriano has not won since beating the Yankees on Aug. 20 and has an 11.91 ERA this year.
“It’s a kid’s game and you’ve got to play it like a kid, and you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. The weight of the world is not on your shoulder,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire remembered telling Liriano.
Gardenhire was ejected for the 61st time in his career when he came out to argue with Greg Gibson after Denard Span got tossed in the third inning for exchanging words following a called strike.
“I said my piece and I got dejected, and then ejected,” Gardenhire said.
A night after winning the opener of the four-game series, the Twins got off to a promising star when Josh Willingham homered into Monument Park leading off the second. He became the first Minnesota player to start the season with an 11-game hitting streak since Jacque Jones in 2002.
Brett Gardner, who reached base four times with two hits and two walks, tied the score with an RBI double in the second. Liriano escaped a bases-loaded jam by retiring Robinson Cano on a groundout.
Minnesota took a 3-1 lead after the ejections. Clete Thomas hit for Span and, after Sabathia was called for a balk, doubled in the go-ahead run. Jamey Carroll followed with an RBI single but Gardner ran in to make a diving catch in left on Willingham that ended the inning.
Eduardo Nunez drove in a run with an infield single in the bottom half, Stewart put the Yankees ahead and Derek Jeter hit a sacrifice fly to the right-field warning track off Matt Maloney. Andruw Jones homered in the fourth, and Jeter had an RBI single in the fifth that made it 7-3.
Looking back, Sabathia thought Gardner’s catch may have changed the game.
“That was huge,” he proclaimed. “I hate to say you expect it, but he’s a great outfielder.”
NOTES: The Yankees will wear replicas of their 1912 uniforms on Friday in Boston for the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park. The team says this is the first time it will use throwback uniforms. … Mark Teixeira was scratched with flulike symptoms. Nick Swisher, who had been slated to be the Yankees’ DH, was at 1B. Jeter moved to DH and Nunez was at SS. … Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte will throw about 65 pitches Friday for Class A Tampa at Daytona. RHP Michael Pineda (sore shoulder) will throw at least one more bullpen session before he’s ready for a rehab outing. … A woman in a wedding gown and a man in formal wear were sitting in the Legends Suite seats, apparently newlyweds.
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