CLEVELAND -- The last gasps of daylight still hung over Progressive Field when C.C. Sabathia induced the Alexi Casilla groundout that ended Tuesday night's game. Officially, the sun had begun to set at 8:58 p.m. ET -- 13 minutes before that final pitch.
But for the Twins, it was dark early. Sabathia turned in a masterful performance for his second complete-game shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory in front of 26,874 fans. And when it was over, and that daylight was still visible overhead, Sabathia needed to check the clock. "It was weird," he said, "because I didn't know what time it was. I thought, 'Man, it must be early. Maybe I can still catch the Lakers game.'" The Lakers game played on the big-screen TV in an Indians clubhouse whose inhabitants were appreciative of their ace's efforts. He had, after all, guided them to that elusive second straight victory. The Indians hadn't notched back-to-back wins since the middle of May, and they wouldn't have won this game had Sabathia not been so dominant. "What can you say? He was outstanding," manager Eric Wedge said. "When you put a game like that together, you've got it all working." Sabathia had it all, and then some. In nine innings, all he allowed were five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. The Twins didn't have a runner reach second base after the first inning, and Sabathia retired the last 17 batters he faced. This was Sabathia (4-8, 4.34 ERA) showing off the form that earned him the Cy Young Award in 2007. That form has eluded him at times in '08, but it was quite present here. "I don't know what his record says this year," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, "but I think the home-plate umpire [Joe West] made the statement saying that's the best he's seen him throw this year or the last two years. That says a lot, because he did win a Cy last year." Sabathia had no choice but to hold the Twins to zeroes, because all his offensive support came in the first inning, when Ben Francisco's one-out double set up the hot-hitting Ryan Garko's two-out, RBI single off Scott Baker. "You never know, playing the Twins, all our games seem to be so low scoring," Garko said. "You've got to take advantage of opportunities when you get them." The Indians would have other opportunities against Baker, but they weren't able to do much with them. They stranded five runners over the first five innings. So this game was in Sabathia's hands, and he did not disappoint. The Twins' lone threat -- if you can call it that -- came in the first, when Carlos Gomez and Casilla opened the game with back-to-back singles. Joe Mauer flew out on a hard-hit ball to left, and Justin Morneau did likewise. And on the latter play, Gomez got caught off the bag at second and was easily doubled up. The Indians would take advantage of another Twins baserunning gaffe in the fourth, when Morneau hit a liner to second that was snagged by Josh Barfield. Mauer was doubled off first on that quick play. "They put the bat on the ball pretty good early," Sabathia said. "We were playing in the right spots." But the bigger key to the ballgame was the way Sabathia was hitting his spots. He threw 106 pitches, 76 of which went for strikes, and his efficiency was a plus for a Tribe team with an unsteady bullpen. "I was just pounding the zone and keeping my pitch count down," Sabathia said. Sabathia only seemed to get stronger and more effective as the game wore on. His catcher, Victor Martinez, even had to rush to the mound to tell him to calm down in the ninth, when one of his pitches was a wayward 98-mph fastball. That pitch was the only moment all evening in which Sabathia's emotions got the best of him. "He's one of the greatest pitchers in the game," Wedge said of Sabathia. "What he does in regard to being even-keel and channeling his emotions in the right direction is a separator in and of itself." Sabathia, who earned the seventh complete-game shutout of his career, was certainly the separator in this game. And when the final out was notched, an Indians team that has struggled in recent weeks to get on any kind of run could finally see the light.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.