NEW YORK -- Just as he's been doing every start since the beginning of May, CC Sabathia spun a gem for the Yankees. And on Friday, the Yankees' bats backed him up.
The Yanks jumped to an early lead with three first-inning runs and cruised thanks to seven shutout innings from Sabathia, holding onto the lead and defeating the Tigers, 4-0, for their fifth straight victory. With the win, the Yankees improved their record to above .500 for the first time since April 13, when they were 4-3.
"Incredible. I think 42 [pitches] after two, maybe 58 after three, might've been more than that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "At that point, you're thinking if I can get five out of him, I'd be pleased. But he got better, which is impressive, and another just brilliant outing out of him."
With the loss, the Tigers dropped back down to .500 at 30-30. Starter Mike Pelfrey eventually settled into a steady groove after the first, allowing just one more run and three more hits in the following 5 2/3 innings, exiting after having thrown 111 pitches and retiring 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Forgettable first impression: Pelfrey mostly kept the Yankees' offense at bay, but got into some trouble in the first inning. While his team's defense didn't help matters ( Justin Upton couldn't corral a fly ball in left field), Pelfrey put his offense in a three-run hole after allowing a bases-loaded walk to Brian McCann and a two-run double to Didi Gregorius.
"Not the way you want to start off, especially with the way the guy's throwing on the other side," Pelfrey said. "I was OK, but it obviously wasn't good enough."
Yanks strike early: With the bases loaded in the first inning, Gregorius launched a double over Upton's head in left field, scoring two runs and extending the Yankees' lead to three. The double, along with McCann's RBI walk earlier in the frame, seemed to continue the Yanks' season-long trend of "score early, win late." Counting Friday's win, the Yankees are 12-3 this season when leading after one inning, and 19-27 when tied or trailing.
CC gets another 'A': Sabathia allowed five hits and walked two while striking out four on 108 pitches. The closest thing resembling trouble that Sabathia encountered came in the fifth inning, when Miguel Cabrera trotted to the plate with runners on the corners and one out. But Sabathia induced a 6-4-3 double play, ending the rally and preserving the shutout.
"I think they just started to swing earlier in the count," Sabathia said of how he was able to work deep into the game. "I was making some pitches where I got some ground balls early later in the game, and it helped me, kind of saved me, to get through the seventh."
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With a single in the first inning, Brett Gardner extended his hitting streak to eight games. In those eight games, Gardner is 16-for-30 with 11 runs scored, meaning Gardner has accounted for just under 25 percent of the Yankees' runs over that span.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Justin Verlander (5-5, 3.97 ERA) looks to continue a string of solid outings in the middle game of the series at 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday in New York. After a rocky beginning to the season, he's recorded a 3-2 record with a 2.01 ERA over his past six starts.
Yankees: It'll be an ace day at Yankee Stadium on Saturday as Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.76 ERA) takes the hill for the Bombers. Tanaka has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 16 starts since Sept. 8, 2015.