PANAMA CITY, Panama -- The cheers flowed easily once more for Mariano Rivera, but the best performance of the afternoon belonged to CC Sabathia, who hurled five hitless innings in the Yankees' 7-0 victory over the Marlins on Sunday at Rod Carew Stadium.
Sabathia retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced in an efficient outing, striking out five. It was a solid bounceback start for Sabathia, who had been displeased by his previous outing of the spring; this time the only baserunner against him reached on an error in the fifth inning.
"I think this turned out great," Sabathia said. "I think all the guys had a good time. Mo, I know, was excited to have us here. It was a big event. All the guys are [asking], 'Can we come back next year?' We had a lot of fun."
One day after the Yankees were held hitless by four Miami pitchers, the Marlins were held out of the hit column until the seventh inning, when Giancarlo Stanton singled to deep left off reliever Preston Claiborne. Stanton was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.
"It was kind of strange -- one hit away from having back-to-back no-hitters," manager Joe Girardi said. "I look at the series, and the Panama people got to see some good hitting, some good pitching, some really good defensive plays. They got to see a lot."
The Yankees put a digit in the hit column early and continued pouring on. Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi allowed one run over four innings, on Zelous Wheeler's ground-rule double in the second. Eovaldi limited the Yanks to four hits, walking none and striking out three.
New York pounded reliever Adam Conley for four runs and four hits in the fifth, with Carlos Beltran and Francisco Cervelli connecting for run-scoring singles. Cervelli had three hits in three at-bats, raising his spring batting average to .480.
Yangervis Solarte then lifted a fly ball to center field that Jake Marisnick lost in the sun. The ball dropped in for a two-run single, giving New York a five-run lead.
Sabathia was critical of his command after a March 11 start against the Nationals in Viera, Fla., in which he allowed three runs in three innings, walking two. He said that he might need to not take Spring Training so seriously in the future; given Sunday's results, that may turn out to be a good plan of attack.
"It's good, but as critical as I was of myself last time, I don't want to get too excited about pitching well," he said. "It is still just Spring Training. I'm working on stuff, and I was just frustrated last week. This feels good, to go out and put this behind me. I've got two more starts left, and I'll be ready for April 1."
"I thought he was effective with his fastball-changeup combination, and he did a great job of keeping them off balance, getting swings and misses," Girardi said. "They didn't square the ball up very much on him. I thought his command was really good."
As the Yankees prepare to return to their normal Spring Training routine, captain Derek Jeter said that the Panama fans gave the clubs an "electric" environment in which to play the two-game series, and that he could tell having the games there was very meaningful to Rivera.
"Knowing Mo for so long, I know how much this country means to him," Jeter said. "He's very proud of where he's from. For him to get an opportunity to bring the Yankees and the Marlins here to play, MLB deserves a lot of credit for doing it.
"I could tell it meant a lot to him. When you're around someone for that long, they don't necessarily have to tell you things. I could see that it meant a lot to him; just walking around, he had a lot of pride. No one deserves it more than him."
Up next: Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will take the ball on Monday as the Yankees travel south to face the Pirates at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on MLB.TV. Kuroda, who will be making his third Grapefruit League start, allowed six earned runs on 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Tigers. Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel is slated to start for Pittsburgh.