His fastball reached the high 90s and he lasted eight innings to lead the Cleveland Indians to a 6-3 victory Tuesday night that snapped a three-game losing streak and knocked the Red Sox out of first place in the AL East for the first time since June 18.
“He had a great fastball from the first inning on and he had it all the way through the eighth,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.
Sabathia (8-7) allowed one run, 10 hits and one walk while striking out eight after losing his previous three decisions. Another key stat: he figures he drank nine or 10 bottles of water during the game.
“I didn’t feel tired at all. It was just hot. I felt strong the whole game,” the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Sabathia said after throwing 111 pitches. “I wasn’t trying to throw hard at all. The ball was coming out of my hand pretty good.”
The Red Sox (63-42) dropped percentage points behind the New York Yankees (62-41), who beat Toronto 5-1 on Tuesday night. Now they must go on without catcher Jason Varitek, who went on the disabled list and is scheduled for arthroscopic surgery for cartilage damage in the left knee he twisted Monday night.
“We won’t know the extent until they go in” and operate, manager Terry Francona said. “This will give us a chance to prove that we can overcome some adversity and be a good ballclub.”
“That’s why they build this team for the bench guys to be able to step up and fill in until the big guys can get back,” said Doug Mirabelli, Varitek’s replacement.
The Indians scored two runs in the first before Blake’s 15th homer. They added two in the seventh against Craig Hansen and one in the eighth against Bryan Corey on Joe Inglett’s second homer just inside the right-field foul pole.
“We couldn’t really string that many hits together” against Sabathia, Loretta said. “When he started to get in trouble, he could reach back and hit 97-98 (mph) and that is tough to cover.”
The Indians suffered a tough 9-8 loss Monday night when David Ortiz hit a winning, three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Sabathia said his performance “was definitely important, especially after the loss last night.”
Johnson, traded by Cleveland on June 21, gave up a leadoff single in the first to Grady Sizemore, who stole second and scored on Jason Michaels’ single. Michaels took third on a groundout and scored on a single by Victor Martinez.
Blake, who hit two homers Monday night, led off the third with another for a 3-0 lead. Johnson retired the next eight batters before leaving with two outs in the sixth.
Hansen struggled in the seventh when Travis Hafner led off with a double and scored on a single by Martinez, who moved up on a passed ball by Mirabelli. Blake singled in Martinez.
The Red Sox threatened in the fifth and were hurt by a questionable call by home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. Kevin Youkilis singled and took second on Ortiz’s two-out infield single. Manny Ramirez then singled to left and Youkilis tried to score.
He slid in as Martinez fielded the throw behind him and swiped at Youkilis’ helmet. Martinez appeared to miss the helmet and, even if he did touch it, Youkilis’ foot might have crossed the plate first. Youkilis argued briefly and Francona ran onto the field and protested mildly.
“Victor did a good job and I think he got him,” Wedge said. “It was just a quick catch and a quick tag.”
Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest in his six seasons with Boston. He is 10-for-16 in his career against Sabathia after going 2-for-4. … Sizemore went 3-for-5 with a single and two doubles. He has reached base in 92 of 105 games. … Corey made his Red Sox debut two days after they obtained him from Texas for minor league pitcher Luis Mendoza. … Blake is 4-for-6 with three homers and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series. … Francona said 3B Mike Lowell was fine after fouling a ball off his right foot in the eighth and leaving the game in the top of the ninth.