With the New York Yankees locked in a tight race for the AL East title, CC Sabathia finally gave them what they needed the last time he took the mound.
Sabathia looks to put together back-to-back strong starts and earn his first win in a month Wednesday when New York and the Minnesota Twins play the finale of a three-game series.
The Yankees (89-65) lead Baltimore by 1 1/2 games in the East, and Sabathia (13-6, 3.47 ERA) getting back on track would surely go a long way in helping them win the division for the 13th time in 17 seasons.
The left-hander has had two stints on the disabled list this season, missing time with a groin strain and elbow soreness. He came back from the elbow issue Aug. 24 and won 3-1 at Cleveland with 7 1-3 innings of four-hit ball.
That victory, though, is his last, and his velocity was down as he went 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA in his next four starts before rounding into form Friday.
Sabathia was in line for the win after allowing three hits and striking out 11 over eight scoreless innings against Oakland, but Rafael Soriano gave up a tying home run in the ninth before the Yankees won 2-1 on Russell Martin's homer the next inning.
"I know it's been a season where it hasn't been vintage CC, but here's a guy with an ERA under 3.50 and we're not calling it vintage CC," manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "That's how good he is. Tonight might have been the best game he's pitched all year."
It was just the third game this season that Sabathia didn't allow an earned run.
"I was just trying not to overthrow. I felt pretty good coming out of the bullpen," Sabathia said. "I just wanted to make sure I kept my delivery together and make sure I commanded the ball. The velocity will come and go so it's up to me to make pitches."
He has made pitches more often than not in his career against Minnesota, going 17-8 with a 2.99 ERA in 33 starts - including two in the playoffs.
Sabathia is 9-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last 10 outings versus the Twins, allowing three runs and four hits over 7 1-3 innings of an 8-3 win in New York on April 17.
Minnesota left-handed batters Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are hitting a combined .163 (13 for 80) with 23 strikeouts against Sabathia.
The Twins (65-90), one game ahead of last-place Cleveland in the AL Central, will counter with rookie Samuel Deduno (6-5, 4.54) as they look to win two in a row over New York for the first time since June 2008. Including the playoffs, Minnesota has dropped 30 of the last 39 matchups.
A four-run seventh inning helped the Twins rally for a 5-4 win Tuesday.
"It's always nice to beat those guys," said Mauer, who had three hits to raise his average to .326 and put a fourth AL batting crown in reach. "But you know, it's a playoff-like atmosphere. Got another team that's in the hunt, and it's good to get a win like that tonight."
Deduno, who has never faced the Yankees, is 0-2 with a 15.63 ERA in his last two starts. The right-hander may want to be careful when pitching to Nick Swisher, who has homered in three straight games and is batting .367 (11 for 30) with 11 RBIs during an eight-game hit streak.
Minnesota, which has won three of four, will be without Josh Willingham for the second straight game due to a sprained left shoulder suffered in Monday's 6-3 loss. The left fielder leads the Twins with 35 home runs and 110 RBIs.