NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia continued the Yankees' run of strong starting pitching with a season-high nine strikeouts and Matt Holliday's homer broke up a no-hit bid in the sixth inning, leading the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the Athletics on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Yankees starters have compiled a 1.56 ERA in five starts during this homestand, a trend that Sabathia continued by picking up his third straight victory. The veteran left-hander recovered from a 25-pitch first inning to blank Oakland into the sixth, with Ryon Healy's RBI double shattering the shutout.
"Throwing offspeed pitches for strikes was a little rough in that first inning, but I was able to settle in," Sabathia said. "I think [the key was] just getting ahead. We got ahead pretty early and I was able to put guys away. Early in the count, we threw some strikes, and that helped us out a lot."
Though Sabathia was staked to a quick lead by Starlin Castro's first-inning sacrifice fly, Oakland's Jharel Cotton held the Yankees hitless until there were two outs in the sixth, when Holliday crushed a two-run homer to left following a walk to Gary Sanchez. Cotton, pitching without his signature changeup much of the day, took the loss after being promoted from Triple-A Nashville.
"It could have been a 1-2-3 inning," Cotton said. "I got the first two guys out, I was trying to get the last guy out. I didn't want to walk that guy. You don't want to put guys on base on free passes, and I did that, and it came back to haunt me. I was trying to throw a cutter away off the plate, and I yanked it down and it just stayed middle."
Josh Phegley hit a seventh-inning homer off Sabathia, who scattered six hits with three walks in a 6 1/3 innings effort. Sabathia has won three straight starts for the first time since April 2013. Dellin Betances retired all five batters he faced to record his fifth save in as many opportunities.
"It's not something we want to make a habit of, but I just felt like today we needed it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We needed a strikeout, and he's the best at it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bold strategy, Cotton: The right-hander was effectively wild through five innings, getting eight swings and misses on his slider, but that fortune ran out in the sixth when Cotton left a 1-0 slider over the plate that Holliday pummeled 411 feet to left field. The 109-mph exit velocity marked the hardest-hit Cotton slider since he was promoted last year. Cotton walked three with a hit batsman and a wild pitch, striking out five.
"That was a great recovery, about as good as I've seen," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He was a little out of sorts obviously and was having a tough time finding the strike zone, threw a lot of pitches early on, and then just found it. Pretty impressive to see, especially for a young kid pitching for the first time here to be able to find it midstream."
"I think he made pitches in big spots," Holliday said. "I'd never faced him, so I don't think many guys have faced him. Sometimes that can be a challenge. He's got three or four pitches. He was able to move them around and make pitches. He's got a pretty live arm."
What a relief: Sabathia exited to a warm ovation in the seventh inning after permitting a one-out double to No. 9 hitter Adam Rosales, with manager Joe Girardi calling upon Adam Warren. New York's bullpen has been heavily worked in the absence of closer Aroldis Chapman, but Warren pinned the potential tying run on base, inducing pinch-hitter Matt Joyce to ground out and striking out Mark Canha swinging.
Call to arms: One night after coughing up a lead for Masahiro Tanaka, former Athletics reliever Tyler Clippard was called upon again in the eighth, and Healy's double gave Oakland runners at second and third with one out. The Yankees brought in Betances for a five-out save; Betances struck out Trevor Plouffe -- prompting Melvin's ejection -- and Chad Pinder to end the threat. It was Betances' first five-out save since June 17, 2015.
"He's our guy. I trust him," Aaron Judge said. "Even if it's bases loaded, no outs, I want Dellin out there. Him coming up big in that situation was huge for us." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Saturday marked just the second time since 1957 that the Yankees won a game at home with two hits or fewer. The other occasion was Sept. 9, 1988, vs. the Tigers, when Claudell Washington hit a walk-off homer in a 3-2 victory.
A's second baseman Jed Lowrie was tossed in the eighth inning by home-plate umpire Will Little, having taken exception to the strike zone after being rung up a third time. It didn't take long before Melvin got the boot, too. Melvin emerged from the dugout after Plouffe was called out on strikes and exchanged words with Little before getting ejected.
WHAT'S NEXT A's: The A's will have right-hander Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77) on the mound in Sunday's 10:05 a.m. PT finale against the Yankees. Triggs has allowed one earned run or fewer in six of his nine starts this season.
Yankees: Right-hander Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35) will start Sunday's series finale against the A's at 1:05 p.m. ET. Pineda has completed at least six innings in each of his last four starts, winning two straight -- both against the Royals. Last time out, he held Kansas City to two runs and six hits over 6 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out six.