But Sabathia took a breath, went for a walk toward second base and ultimately regained his cool. That gave the Yankees' ace the opportunity to keep both his head and arm in the game and put his final touches on Monday's 4-1 victory over the Orioles.
"A couple of years ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to control that emotion," Sabathia said. "I probably would have been all over the place. Being older, I'm able now to calm down and just go out there and pitch."
The 29-year-old lefty rebounded from that seventh-inning flare-up regarding balls and strikes with umpire Bill Hohn to complete eight strong innings. Randy Winn hit his first home run in more than a year, a three-run shot off Jeremy Guthrie, as the Yankees won for the fifth time in six games.
Despite Hohn's perceived floating zone, the Yankees weren't about to argue with Sabathia's results -- he scattered six hits and was hurt only by a Matt Wieters second-inning homer, which came on a meaty 2-0 fastball that had wandered too far back over the heart of the plate.
"CC was great tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He gave up the one solo shot, and I thought he got a lot of ground balls. He got some important double plays tonight. He was able to keep it under 110 [pitches], which is really important."
Beating the Orioles for the second time in less than a week and improving to 11-1 in 16 career starts vs. Baltimore, Sabathia seemed to labor until the Yankees supplied a four-run inning against Guthrie in the fourth.
"I was trying to find it a little earlier in the game," Sabathia said. "After we scored the runs, I was able to just settle down and lock it in -- try to throw the ball over the plate and make them swing early in the count."
Red-hot outfielder Nick Swisher tied the game with a ringing RBI single off the right-field wall to drive in Alex Rodriguez, and after starting the year 1-for-14 in a bench role, Winn gave the Yankees the lead with a three-run drive that landed in the New York bullpen.
"I'm really not a home run hitter," Winn said. "That felt really good. It's always nice when you can get in there and help your team win. When you're not playing every day, you have to do what you can."
The home run snapped a stretch of 491 at-bats without a homer for Winn, who had last gone deep on April 25, 2009, with the Giants against Max Scherzer, then a member of the D-backs. With Curtis Granderson sidelined due to a left groin strain, Winn is in line to see more playing time.
"I was so excited, I think I even gave a fist-pump for him as I was running around the bases," Swisher said. "He's such a huge part of this team, not only with his ability on the field but the knowledge he brings as a veteran player. I couldn't have been more tickled for him."
Sabathia's heated exchange with Hohn came in the seventh inning with Lou Montanez batting. Even though Hohn called the pitch a strike, Sabathia said Hohn came out in front of the plate and said something, though Sabathia claimed not to remember what it was.
"It was just a combination of the whole game," Sabathia said. "I was just a little frustrated. I fell behind a lot of guys that I thought I threw some pretty good pitches [to]. It's just one of those things."
Girardi shot out of the dugout and intercepted his pitcher, sending him back off the mound to regain his composure. Sabathia said he kept telling himself to relax and get back on the mound with focus.
"He got a little upset and showed some emotion," Girardi said. "That's just the competitive nature of the game."
With Sabathia done after 106 pitches and headed for his next start on regular rest, the Yankees had Joba Chamberlain -- and not Mariano Rivera -- warming for a save situation in the ninth inning.
The Yankees later revealed that Rivera has been battling stiffness in his left side, which is not thought to be serious, and Rivera was happy to watch from the bullpen as Chamberlain retired the side around a walk for his second career save and first since Sept. 23, 2007, at Toronto.
"I felt really relaxed," Chamberlain said. "Having the effort that CC had, and Randy getting the big hit and us playing great defense ... when I got in the ninth, I was able to slow things down, and I felt really comfortable. You just know that you have to be that much better, because those guys in that lineup can hurt you."
The only salty note of the evening for the Yankees was the loss of catcher Jorge Posada, who exited after five innings with what an MRI revealed to be a mild right calf strain. Posada likely will not be available to catch until Friday in Boston at the earliest, but Sabathia said the Yankees will be able to fill in just fine.
"[Injuries are] starting to hit us, but we've got a veteran club in here," Sabathia said. "We know that we've got to pick up the slack. We have a great team, and we have to try to hold down the fort until these guys get healthy."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.