Making an effort to get his right foot down quicker, Sabathia pitched shutout ball into the eighth inning to lead New York to a 6-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night.
The 6-foot-7 left-hander yielded just six singles in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked none.
It was a much different outing than opening day in Baltimore when he lasted just 4 1-3 innings in his first start for the Yankees after signing a seven-year contract. Against the Orioles, he allowed six runs and eight hits, walked five and threw two wild pitches in a 10-5 loss.
“Fastball command, getting ahead of guys. It felt a lot better than the first game,” he said.
Sabathia (1-1) did not have a strikeout in his Yankees debut for the first time in almost four years. But he fanned Coco Crisp in the first inning Saturday.
“I don’t know much about pitching,” said Nick Swisher, who drove in three of New York’s runs. “But I know when he punches out the first batter of the game with a 96-mph fastball, I think he’s probably feeling it.”
The Royals got only two runners to third base against Sabathia, who led the majors last year with 10 complete games and five shutouts.
“He had good stuff,” said Billy Butler, who struck out three times. “I swung at a couple I shouldn’t have. I took a couple that I shouldn’t have.”
Sabathia said he tried out the adjustment in a bullpen session.
“It just lets you stay on top of the ball, throwing the ball downhill and throwing the ball at the bottom of the strike zone,” he said. “Just getting my foot down quicker and staying tall and staying on top of the ball.”
Kansas City, which led the majors with 56 spring training home runs, has scored only eight runs in its first five games.
“We need to have more quality at-bats earlier,” manager Trey Hillman said. “The more pitches you see, the better pitches you get to hit. We’re antsy at the plate, swinging outside the strike zone.”
Jorge Posada had three RBIs and Swisher, hitting third, had a run-scoring triple and a two-run homer to raise his RBI total in the last three games to nine.
“Get to hit in the three-hole for the New York Yankees! I was real excited about that,” said Swisher, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Chicago White Sox. “This just feels great. I’m coming to the ballpark every day with the mindset I want to do whatever I can to help the team.”
Posada drove in two runs in the first inning for the second straight game and added an RBI single in the third off Horacio Ramirez (0-1).
Ramirez went 4 1-3 innings and was ineffective from the first inning on in his first 2009 start. He gave up six runs and eight hits, walked two and struck out two.
“I fell behind way too much,” he said.
Johnny Damon was supposed to have the night off for the Yankees but was pressed into duty when Mark Teixeira was a last-minute scratch with a sore wrist. Damon singled in the first, Swisher walked and Posada made it 2-0 with a two-run double that got Willie Bloomquist twisted around in right field.
Swisher’s triple drove in Derek Jeter in the third, then Posada’s single put the Yankees on top 4-0.
Swisher’s homer off Ramirez added two more in the fifth before Robinson Tejeda came out of the bullpen and pitched shutout ball for 2 2-3 innings, striking out six in an impressive first appearance of 2009.
Manager Joe Girardi said he expected Teixeira to play on Sunday.
Royals third baseman Alex Gordon left after the fifth inning with tightness in his right hip and was listed day to day.
The Yankees’ first inning Saturday was just like the day before, with the leadoff batter making an out, followed by a single, a walk, another out and then a two-run hit by Posada. … The Royals grounded into their first double play of the season in the second. … The Yankees were the last team in the majors to make an error. … After walking Swisher, Tejeda struck out the side in the seventh. … The Royals’ bullpen has 13 strikeouts in the last two games. … Sabathia is 15-10 lifetime against Kansas City.