Yankees blank Red Sox, close in on AL East title
NEW YORK(AP) Put the bubbly on ice for the first clinching celebration at the new Yankee Stadium. With another dominant performance by CC Sabathia, the New York Yankees ' magic number for winning the AL East is down to one.
''We've got a lot of work left to do,'' Sabathia said after smothering the Boston Red Sox by allowing just one hit over seven innings in a 3-0 victory Saturday. Then the big man quickly added: ''It feels good right now.''
Sabathia (19-7) combined on a two-hitter with Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera to become the major leagues' first 19-game winner, Robinson Cano hit a tiebreaking, opposite-field homer in the sixth against Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-6) that bounced off the top of the left-field fence and Johnny Damon slapped a soft, two-run single in the eighth off Billy Wagner .
Already assured of no worse than the wild card, the Yankees (99-56) have won eight of nine against their rival after starting the season 0-8 against Boston (91-63). They can wrap up their first division title since 2006 on Sunday when they play the Red Sox for the final time this season.
''We need one win basically in the next seven games,'' manager Joe Girardi said. ''You'd like to clinch as soon as possible so you could maybe give the guys a couple days and make sure that you keep them well-rested and strong.''
Boston's magic number for a playoff berth stayed stuck at three.
''I don't think it matters,'' Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. ''Both of us are probably going to the playoffs unless we don't do something right.''
Sabathia pitched 5 2-3 hitless innings against Red Sox on Aug. 8 before Jacoby Ellsbury singled and threw shutout ball over 7 2-3 innings that day. This time he retired his first 11 batters before walking Victor Martinez in the fourth, and he allowed his only hit when Mike Lowell singled up the middle past second baseman Cano leading off the fifth.
Sabathia struck out eight and walked two, lowering his ERA to 3.21. He is 9-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last 11 starts and has matched his career high for wins, set with Cleveland two years ago. He'll get a chance to reach 20 at Tampa Bay on Friday night.
''He's been everything that we have asked for and more,'' Girardi said. ''He is an ace.''
Sabathia was pitching on six days' rest after going on five in each of his previous two starts. Last year with Milwaukee, he had just three days' rest for his last four appearances.
''It definitely feels good to have a lead and be able to get the extra days off,'' he said. ''Last year, I think it took a toll on me mentally more than it did physically.''
No shocker here: Girardi said Sabathia will start the Yankees' postseason opener.
''I think the extra rest has really helped him,'' the manager said. ''We want to make sure he's really strong going into October.''
In his third start following nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, Matsuzaka pitched to Martinez for the first time and allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, walked five and hit a batter.
''I don't think my pitching was entirely bad,'' he said through a translator. ''It was a step in the right direction.''
Through five innings, the Yankees were 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners, including six on second or third. Cano homered leading off the bottom of the sixth, giving him 100 runs and 199 hits this season.
Now for Sunday, and perhaps the first clincher at the new field.
''We haven't gotten there yet,'' Yankees captain Derek Jeter said.
NOTES: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Yankees fan from the Bronx, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg signaled a foul tip off the bat of David Ortiz on an 0-1 pitch in the fifth, even though replays showed the ball missed the bat by inches. Fox aired audio of the ensuing discussion between the two. ... The crowd of 48,809 was the seventh sellout at new Yankee Stadium: opening day and the last six games against Boston. ... Four batters were hit - including Youkilis twice - but no warnings were issued. ... Wagner, the Mets former closer, entered to boos in his first game in New York since Boston acquired him last month. The runs off him were unearned because SS Chris Woodward dropped the ball for an error during a rundown after pinch-runner Brett Gardner got caught off third on a ball in the dirt. ... Rivera got 43rd save in 45 chances, striking out Lowell with two on to end the game. ... Martinez extended his hitting streak to 25 games.
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