Commentary

Jays don't see what's coming from CC

Still, Sabathia can't pitch every day, so it's up to Hughes to dodge the, ahem, cameras

Updated: July 17, 2011, 10:31 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

TORONTO -- The alleged Rogers Centre surveillance, real or imagined, failed to stop CC Sabathia. Really, the Yankees could send telegrams, emails and tweets announcing each pitch before its arrival and Sabathia would still be untouchable.

These days, Yogi is dead wrong. It is over when Sabathia takes the mound. Sabathia is to starting what Mariano Rivera is to finishing.

"It is like Mo in the ninth," Mark Teixeira said. "You just figure he is going to get it done."

[+] EnlargeCC Sabathia
Abelimages/Getty ImagesSabathia has a rubber arm, for sure, but even CC can't take the mound two straight days.

Sabathia won a major league best No. 14 for himself and the Yankees' first of the second half. He has won seven straight starts. His ERA is 2.64 and sinking fast.

The only shocker was he gave up a run in the first. It was the first one he allowed in a career-best 23 2/3 innings.

He even performed a minor miracle, getting Joe Girardi to relax -- a little -- after the two-game losing streak ended. Girardi, tense from not having won a game since Sabathia's previous start last Sunday in the Bronx, was breathing a little easier compared to his pregame filled with innuendo.

"It was a pleasure," Girardi said.

And, of course, after Sabathia gave up the first-inning run, he started a new streak with seven scoreless the rest of the way before he handed the ball to Rivera to turn out the lights and (alleged) surveillance cameras for the night.

Sabathia did it all, like he always does, with his California cool. He lifted some of the pressure off another Cali-cool kid, Phil Hughes, who goes Sunday.

"Maybe that is what makes him so good," Girardi said of Sabathia. "He doesn't put so much pressure on himself and realizes it is just one start and he can only do what he is going to do."

Among Yankees starters, Sabathia, though, may be turning into what his buddy LeBron James was in Cleveland. He might need to do it all.

Sabathia can't pitch every day, though he nearly tried to do just that in the 2009 playoffs when he lifted the Yankees to the World Series.

This is where Hughes must become at least a Chris Bosh, if not a Dwyane Wade, again. It is past mid-July and Hughes is still looking for his first win. Hughes' demeanor hasn't changed despite a 10.57 ERA.

"I think he feels a responsibility, which is a good thing," Girardi said. "He knows he has a responsibility to this team and I like that part of it. I think he's been relaxed. I don't think he has been a different person from last year."

He has been a different pitcher, as you, Girardi and the baseball world know. Hughes has not yet fully found his velocity on the major league level.

Now, he goes into Sunday with a new, harder curveball. In the bullpen before the break, Hughes was fooling around with his grip as coach Mike Harkey looked on. He started throwing a harder, less loopy curveball.

They discussed the change with pitching coach Larry Rothschild and the experiment will be unveiled a little after 1 p.m. Sunday.

"I've very excited," Hughes said. "It has been a little while since my last start and I think I made a couple of changes that are for the good."

The Yankees need Hughes to be at least good to give them some protection if the previous two nights of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia are the beginning of the end of their stellar 2011 stuff.

On Saturday, Sabathia just ignored the surveillance talk. He had a devastating slider, throwing 27 among his 110 pitches. The Blue Jays missed 18 of them.

When Sabathia used the slider to end at-bats, Toronto had just one hit in 11 tries. Sabathia's slider finished off six of his eight strikeouts.

The pitch is now almost unhittable. In April and May, opponents batted .277 against the slider. In June and July, they are at .091.

"When you expect a guy to throw a shutout every time out there, it is pretty impressive," Teixeira said. "They scratched that one run out early. After that, he was absolutely dominant."

Forget the LeBron comparison, Sabathia is turning into Michael Jordan. He now needs some Jordanaires. Hughes auditions again Sunday.

Can he overcome the cameras at the Blue Jays' dome?

ESPN Researcher Jacob Nitzberg contributed to this report

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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