His two starts last week had Indians fans reminiscing of his 19-win, American League Cy Young Award-winning performances of last season. For his efforts, he earned a pair of wins and on Monday, the big left-hander was named AL Player of the Week.
Bank of America, the official bank of Major League Baseball, is the presenting sponsor of the National League and American League Player of the Week Awards, which reflect Bank of America's long-standing tradition of promoting and recognizing higher standards of accomplishment. Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco and Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit shared this week's NL award.
Sabathia, who won the weekly award for the second time in his career, came into the week of June 9-15 with a 3-8 record as perplexing as his team's disappointing season.
But in his two starts last week, he looked like his old dominant self. He tossed a complete-game shutout against the Twins on Tuesday, and followed it up by outdueling four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux on Sunday. In those starts, he permitted just three runs, 11 hits and one walk while striking out 15.
"He's one of the greatest pitchers in the game," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "What he does in regard to being even keeled and handling everything out there to get the most out of his ability, and channel his emotions in the right direction is a separator in and of itself. ... For him to put all that together and present it every fifth day, that's special stuff.
"He's really worked hard to get into a zone and block everything else out."
It has showed. Sabathia has a 2.39 ERA in his last 10 starts. He leads the AL with 97 strikeouts and ranks third with 99 1/3 innings pitched.
"I was just pounding the zone and keeping my pitch count down," Sabathia said.
He needed just 106 pitches in his complete-game shutout against the Twins, the seventh complete-game shutout of the 27-year-old's career. He didn't have a baserunner reach second base after the first inning and retired the last 17 batters he faced.
Sabathia got stronger as the game went on, evident by the 98-mph fastball he unleashed in the ninth inning.
"He's tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Sabathia. "I don't know what his record says this year but I think the home-plate umpire made the statement saying that's the best he's seen him throw this year or the last two years. That says a lot, because he did win a Cy last year."
Speaking of Cys, Sabathia sparkled against the Padres on Sunday in a matchup of Cy Young winners. Facing Maddux for the first time in his career, Sabathia looked sharp in the first three frames, but relinquished a three-run lead when the Padres tied it in the fourth.
"I was upset," Sabathia said. "But I thought to myself, 'No more.'"
The Padres didn't score again. Sabathia only allowed one more baserunner on a walk, which he erased with a double play. He retired the final seven batters he faced.
San Diego manager Bud Black witnessed Sabathia many times as pitching coach for the Angels from 2000-07. Sabathia's dominance didn't shock him. Black said what he saw out of Cleveland's southpaw mirrored what he saw too many times from the Angels' dugout.
"I thought his stuff was how I have seen it in the past," he said. "At times, he had a really hard slider, threw some good changeups."
Sabathia's win Sunday gave the Indians two straight series wins as they attempt to climb back into the AL Central race. The defending division champs entered Monday trailing the first place White Sox by 5 1/2 games. With their offense struggling to score runs, more Cy-worthy performances from Sabathia would provide a big help.
"Maybe this can kick us off into a nice streak and we can turn this thing around," Sabathia said.
Tourneau, the world's largest watch store, will award Sabathia with a luxury Swiss Timepiece, suitably engraved, in recognition of his accomplishments as Bank of America Presents the American League Player of the Week.
Other nominees this past week included: Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less