CC Sabathia pushes Yankees to win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — CC Sabathia had to work hard for this milestone, just like most of his victories in this challenging season for the New York Yankees.

To the Minnesota Twins, well, he was the same overpowering, nearly unbeatable pitcher.

Sabathia won his 200th career game to stretch his winning streak over Minnesota to nearly six years, and Robinson Cano hit a tying two-run double to spark the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Twins on Wednesday night.

The significance of Sabathia’s accomplishment at age 32 was lost, at least publicly, on the burly left-hander.

“It’s hard not to be aware of it, but I don’t know if it means anything right now,” Sabathia said. “I’ll be ready in five days to go again and just try to get No. 201.”

Cano fueled the three-run sixth against Twins starter PJ Walters (2-5), who was pitching for his job. Trevor Plouffe homered against Sabathia (9-6), but he finished seven innings with seven hits and three walks while striking out nine. The Yankees are missing almost all of their stars, and Sabathia’s fastball isn’t in the upper 90s anymore. The big man can still throw, though.

“I think it’s still a work in progress. I think you’re always trying to get better and trying to reinvent yourself,” Sabathia said. “I’ve still got some work to do, but hopefully I can just keep getting better.”

Sabathia is 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA in his last 12 starts against the Twins. He threw a season-high 121 pitches.

“He did really grind this one out,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s just his will. He never gets down on himself. He always believes that he can make the pitch, and eventually he does it.”

The Twins were on their way to beating Sabathia for the first time since July 29, 2007, the year he won the AL Cy Young award. Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk in the third and scored on Joe Mauer’s double, his first extra-base hit in nine games.

Shortstop Luis Cruz, signed before the game as a replacement for Jayson Nix — the latest Yankee to hit the disabled list — was charged with an error for throwing over first baseman Lyle Overbay’s head to give the Twins runners at the corners with no outs.

But Sabathia bore down after that, striking out Justin Morneau, retiring Plouffe on a fly out and striking out Oswaldo Arcia to finish the inning.

With two outs in the fifth, Plouffe’s drive escaped the outstretched glove of center fielder Brett Gardner and bounced high off the top of the wall onto the black batter-eye backing behind it for a 2-0 lead. That was all the Twins could get, though.

“With a guy like CC you have to score those runs, especially against the Yankees,” Plouffe said.

Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his 28th save in 29 tries in his farewell season.

Cano has had at least two hits in each of the first six games of this road trip, batting 14 for 24 with 10 RBIs and four home runs. His streak of going deep ended at three straight games, but the four-time All-Star second baseman didn’t stop lifting this lagging, injury-ravaged lineup once again. Aaron Hicks made a fully extended catch of Cano’s line drive to center field in the eighth inning, the only time the Twins got him out on the night.

After giving the Twins solid performances in his first four starts, Walters fell out of whack, lasting a total of nine innings over his previous three turns while allowing 16 hits, 16 runs and nine walks.

The right-hander breezed twice through the batting order, but the leadoff walk in the sixth to Gardner was foreboding. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a double, and then came Cano’s crushing line drive down the right-field line off a 1-2 slider that caught too much of the plate.

“I just hung the breaking ball. It’s a pitch I should’ve bounced,” Walters said.

With first base open, the Twins could’ve intentionally walked Cano. He paused when asked why he thinks teams have been pitching to him despite the tear he’s on.

“The only way you can look at it is it’s a team that’s not in the race. … They’re taking their chances: `All right, let’s pitch to him,'” Cano said.

Caleb Thielbar bailed the Twins out, limiting the damage to Overbay’s go-ahead sacrifice fly after inheriting a no-out, runners-at-the-corners situation. But the lead was lost.

Walters allowed four hits and three walks while striking out three.

NOTES: Twins LF Josh Willingham had arthroscopic surgery in the morning to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. … Yankees RH Hiroki Kuroda, out of the rotation temporarily because of a left hip flexor problem, will see the team doctor on Friday. Girardi declined to speculate on when Kuroda, who has been the team’s best starter, will take his next turn. … The Yankees will send RH David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA to the mound in search of the sweep in the finale on Thursday afternoon. Rookie RH Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00) will make his second start for the Twins after winning his major league debut last weekend with six strong innings.