MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a sign of how far CC Sabathia has come that he could stand in front of his locker, a victory and seven strikeouts next to his name in the box score, and carp about the pitches that didn't go his way.
Whether he expected it or not, the bar has been raised for Sabathia, who has been better than anyone in the Majors over his last seven starts. The big lefty gutted through a 116-pitch outing on Thursday, leading the Yankees to a 4-1 victory over the Twins at Target Field.
"Just hopefully keep it going, keep building," Sabathia said. "Tonight the command wasn't where I wanted it to be. Hopefully it's there in five days when I'm out there."
Didi Gregorius' three-run homer off Fernando Abad provided the margin of victory for Sabathia, who won his second consecutive start. He has allowed just four runs over his last 44 innings, wielding a 0.82 ERA that is the best in the Majors over that span.
"He's a guy that I've always said, [he] finds a way," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He competes. He takes the pressure off the other guys. He's been really good."
Sabathia said that the command of his two-seamer was missing in action, forcing him to operate with plenty of Twins on the basepaths as he scattered six hits while issuing three walks.
Eduardo Nunez's fourth-inning RBI single -- the first run surrendered by Sabathia since May 31 at Toronto -- put Minnesota ahead briefly, but Sabathia was able to strand nine men during his six innings.
"That was huge, especially early in the game, keeping them off the scoreboard," Sabathia said.
Girardi said that he thought Sabathia's last two innings might have been his best work of the evening, and wondered if Sabathia might have been too strong coming off an extra day of rest.
Sabathia was at 104 pitches through five innings and said that he "begged" Girardi to let him go back out for the sixth, retiring the 8-9-1 hitters in order.
"He made his most important pitches when runners were on tonight," Girardi said. "He could have given up a lot of runs. He was at 50 pitches almost after two innings. He just kept fighting."
Sabathia said that the many miles on his left arm might have equipped him to handle the myriad situations he faced on Thursday.
"I guess it's experience, being able to calm down and make a pitch when I need to," Sabathia said. "I'd much rather not be in those jams and make good pitches to get quick outs so I can pitch deeper in the game and help the bullpen out."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.