Sabathia, Sizemore carry Tribe to win

Sabathia, Sizemore carry Tribe to win

CLEVELAND -- It's pretty tough for a 6-foot-7, 270-pound left-hander -- especially one who's the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner -- to fly under the radar, but C.C. Sabathia has somehow managed to do it.

Maybe it was his slow start, or the Indians' lackluster start as a whole. Or, perhaps, it's been the lights-out start from his buddy Cliff Lee, who, after Thursday's 11-strikeout, one-run performance, looked every bit of the Tribe's No. 1 guy.

But manager Eric Wedge wasn't quick to forget about the bigger -- in size -- lefty. He assured after Thursday's game that there's room for two aces on the Indians' staff.

"I think you have to look at both Cliff and C.C.," Wedge said Thursday. "Those two guys are leading the way, no doubt."

Sabathia backed Wedge's belief with yet another strong performance Friday night at Progressive Field in front of 34,844 fans. The left-hander tossed eight dominating innings to lead the Tribe past the Reds, 6-0, in the series opener to the second half of the Ohio Cup.

Sabathia's performance, which included 11 strikeouts -- tying his season best -- and a stretch where he retired 15 consecutive Reds, was nothing new to Wedge. He's seen it since the latter parts of April, regardless if anyone cared to notice.

"I think he's looked that way for a while," Wedge said. "He's been right on line throwing the ball the way he's capable of throwing. He really takes it to another level."

Sabathia, who has been at the center of swirling trade rumors as the Indians have stalled near the bottom of the AL Central, said he's turned a deaf ear to it all, not even turning on the TV unless it's MTV. Instead, he's turned his performance, and more specifically his fastball, to another level since he began the season 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA.

"I feel pretty good," Sabathia said. "I haven't felt any different. The walks are down and I'm throwing all my pitches for strikes, coming in from both sides of the plate."

Sabathia didn't exactly have his best stuff early on this night, admitting that he "was a little shaky" and "all over the place."


"[Sabathia] was fantastic tonight, from the first pitch all the way to the final pitch he threw in the eighth inning. He was in control the entire ballgame."
-- manager Eric Wedge

It showed just two batters into the game, when he left a fastball up in the zone to another good buddy, Adam Dunn, who blasted it to deep to center field. The left-hander didn't even sweat it. He had Grady Sizemore backing him up, and he "expected it" to come down in Sizemore's mitt.

It did. Leaping against the wall, Sizemore let the ball carom off the heel of his glove, trapping it with his body before grabbing it with his free hand for the loud out.

"I just told him that saved the game," Sabathia said. "That was a big catch, and just getting my foot off to a good start -- that meant everything."

Said Wedge, "I think he electrified everyone with that catch."

It didn't necessarily electrify the Tribe's bats right away, though. Facing right-hander Daryl Thompson in his second career Major league start -- the kind of pitcher that has given the team fits all season -- the Indians put runners on base in each of the first four innings, but had nothing to show for it.

In the fifth, Sizemore, again, was there to pick up the slack, blasting his 18th home run 379 feet to right field, giving Sabathia all the run support he would need.

But the Indians weren't done proving they could hit a rookie, erupting for five runs in the sixth.

An RBI single from Casey Blake and a Kelly Shoppach sacrifice fly put the Tribe up, 3-0, before Sizemore ripped it open with a two-run double. Jamey Carroll added an RBI single for good measure to cap the surprising outburst.

"After the homer, we did a good job of adding on the next inning and getting the big hit," Sizemore said. "C.C. was on, and we were able to give him support and carry him through the game."

The support was appreciated, but Sabathia didn't really need it. He locked in after allowing a two-out single to Norris Hopper in the second, striking out the next batter and retiring the next 14 in commanding fashion.

"He was fantastic tonight, from the first pitch all the way to the final pitch he threw in the eighth inning," Wedge said. "He was in control the entire ballgame."

He had reason, maybe, to lose control after allowing a two-out hit in the seventh to Jeff Keppinger, which broke the streak of consecutive batters retired at 15. And he had reason, perhaps, in the eighth when the Reds put two runners on with one out.

Sabathia didn't, ending both threats with strikeouts and setting up Masa Kobayashi for a stress-free ninth inning.

"It's impressive to watch," Sizemore said of Sabathia. "He went out there and dominated."

Sabathia's dominance made a bit of history on this night. He and Lee became the first Indians to have back-to-back 10-strikeout performances since 1972, when Gaylord Perry and Dick Tidrow did it.

"I don't think you'll see any better back-to-back starts than what you've seen from Cliff and C.C. over the last two nights," Wedge said.

Certainly, more verification that it's OK for a manager to have two aces up his sleeve.

Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.