CC 3rd, behind Hall of Famers, on lefty K list

CC 3rd, behind Hall of Famers, on lefty K list

NEW YORK -- In the statistical category of strikeouts by a left-handed pitcher, CC Sabathia will eventually end his career clutching the bronze medal, and that sounds just fine to the longtime Yankees hurler.

Sabathia moved into third place all-time in the second inning of Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Twins, striking out five to finish the evening with 2,836 career whiffs. Among lefties, he trails Hall of Famers Randy Johnson (4,875) and Steve Carlton (4,136).

"That's pretty cool, especially [because] the two guys that are in front of me, I'm never going to catch," Sabathia said. "It's cool to have your name up there with those guys. I didn't know until I came in and Matty [Holliday] said, 'Congratulations.' I'm just not a numbers guy. I don't worry about that. All the stuff will take care of itself."

Sabathia tied Mickey Lolich (2,832) with his first strikeout of the night, freezing Robbie Grossman looking at a called third strike, then whiffed Chris Gimenez to pass Lolich. The active leader in strikeouts, Sabathia is now 18th on the all-time list, trailing Jim Bunning (2,855) by 19.

"It's amazing, what he's accomplished in his career," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been that guy that you could always count on in big situations, and he's been that here, too."

Girardi on Sabathia's outing

With the Yankees looking to firm up their postseason position against their closest challengers for the first American League Wild Card, Sabathia delivered on a breezy night in The Bronx. Though the Yanks still need outside help to catch the Red Sox -- who maintain a three-game lead in the division -- Sabathia said it was important to keep the pressure on.

"For us, it's just about winning every game," Sabathia said. "We control our own destiny, so we can look up at the scoreboard after the game. They've been playing good, too. It's just up to us to keep going."

By escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the first inning with only one run scoring via a double-play ball, Sabathia started a string in which he retired 15 of 16 around Max Kepler's third-inning solo home run. He scattered six hits over six innings to pick up his 12th victory -- Sabathia's most since 2013.

Sabathia escapes trouble in 6th

"I thought CC was great," Brett Gardner said. "I think he had bases loaded in the first inning, no outs, and was able to get a big double-play ball, get out of that situation only allowing one run and bring the offense back in and let us get to work."

Since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 19, Sabathia has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of six starts, going 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA over that span.

Though Sabathia lauded Gardner's three-hit effort by calling the outfielder "the leader of our team, on and off the field," Gardner nodded toward the big man's locker and said he'd like to defer that honor to the 235-game winner.

"I've been in here a couple of months longer than he has, I guess, but he's had a great career," Gardner said. "He's accomplished, obviously, a whole lot on and off the field. The guys in our clubhouse have a lot of respect for him. That's a great compliment coming from him.

"I think we've got a lot of great leaders in this room, and I think that's important, especially with all the young guys we have in here, to try to show them the way. They've been great all year -- the performance of the young guys is the reason why we're in a good position right now. Hopefully we can continue to play well."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.