MINNEAPOLIS -- CC Sabathia struck out nine in seven effective innings, leading the New York Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Wednesday night.
Sabathia (9-6) got stronger the longer he lasted, recording six strikeouts from the fourth inning on. He threw 121 pitches and gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks.
"He did really grind this one out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I looked up and he had 80 pitches after four innings. I didn't think his slider was as good as it's been. But he found a way to get it done. And that's what CC does. CC is a competitor and he is going to find a way."
New York employed the same game plan that has worked while winning each of the first three contests in the series: Spot the Twins a small, early lead, then take it away in the later innings. Trailing 2-0, the Yankees scored three times off P.J. Walters in the sixth and never looked back.
"That definitely was important to me to come out and have a shut-down inning," Sabathia said after the sixth inning rally. "Not even an inning. Just shut down the rest of the game and pitch with a lead. That's something that I haven't been doing well lately, and it just feels good to get this one."
New York's offense cranked it up in the sixth when Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on Ichiro Suzuki's double off the wall in the right-field corner.
"That was a huge hit," Girardi said. "That's what really got us going. I think we had one hit up until that point. That was what put the pressure on them."
Robinson Cano, who has been killing the Twins all series, followed with a double to right that scored Gardner and Suzuki to tie the game. Travis Hafner singled to left, moving Cano to third and ending Walters' night.
"I was ahead of him," Walters said of Cano. "Obviously there's a base open. You don't want him to beat you. I hung a breaking ball. It was a pitch I should have bounced. ... If I walk him, oh well. Obvious I hung it and it was not what I was trying to do there."
Gardenhire would also like to have seen the pitch down.
"He's a great hitter," Gardenhire said of pitching to Cano with a base open. "You are trying to figure out different ways. The bottom line is you want him to chase. And if you get pitches up in the zone he's killed it every time and he did again tonight."
Caleb Thielbar came on to get three straight outs, but Cano scored on Lyle Overbay's sacrifice fly to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
Walters (2-5) pitched five-plus innings, giving up three runs on four hits and three walks. He struck out three.
David Robinson pitched the eighth inning for New York and set the Twins down in order. Mariano Rivera took over in the ninth and secured his 28th save of the season.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the third when Brian Dozier walked and Joe Mauer hit an RBI double to left-center. Ryan Doumit followed with a grounder to shortstop Luis Cruz (who was signed by the Yankees earlier in the day), and he threw the ball over Overbay's head at first, moving Mauer to third.
However, Sabathia worked out of the jam, striking out Justin Morneau, getting Trevor Plouffe to fly out to right and striking out Oswaldo Arcia.
Plouffe got Sabathia in his next at-bat, though, hitting his eighth home run of the season over the center-field wall for a 2-0 lead.
NOTES: Sabathia became the 27th pitcher in major league history to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Rivera ranks in the major leagues in saves behind Baltimore's Jim Johnson (29). ... Thielbar has yet to allow a run this season, tossing 18 2/3 scoreless innings over 16 appearances, a Twins record to start a career. ... Brian Dozier has been involved in 58 double plays this season, the seventh most ever in a season for a Twins second baseman.