"That's only the second time that's happened in my career," Sabathia said.
The other was last season against the Reds, when Willis asked Sabathia if he wanted to intentionally walk Brandon Phillips with two on. Sabathia did then what he did Sunday. He opted to pitch.
"Any time they give me the option," Sabathia said with a smile, "I'm going after the guy."
Sabathia went after A-Rod and struck him out. He did the same to Shelley Duncan. Getting out of that jam was one of the highlights of Sabathia's eight innings of work, in which he allowed just a run on four hits but came away with a loss because of an absence of offensive support.
"We asked out of total respect for him," Willis said. "He's a guy we feel comfortable with against anybody. But in the situation, it made some sense [to walk A-Rod]. At the same time, we wanted to see how he felt about it. Obviously, he did what he wanted to do."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.