(Sports Network) - Red-hot Yankees ace CC Sabathia puts his five-start winning streak and unblemished home record on the line this afternoon against the Seattle Mariners in the finale of a three-game series from the Bronx.
Sabathia has pitched to a 2.19 earned run average during his streak and is coming off his second straight eight-inning performance. He threw eight shutout innings in a win over the Mets on June 20, then held the Dodgers to a run and four hits over eight frames in last Friday's 2-1 win at Los Angeles.
The left-hander and 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner pushed his mark to 9-3 in 16 starts and lowered his ERA to 3.49. Sabathia has been deadly at Yankee Stadium this season, going 5-0 in seven outings there. He will make his 15th career start against Seattle and has won six of 10 decisions in this series. Sabathia last faced the Mariners in a 10-1 victory back on September 19, 2009 at Safeco Field, where he allowed one unearned run in seven innings.
New York hopes to salvage the finale of this set after Seattle right-handers Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez went the distance in back-to-back days to set up a possible sweep Thursday. Sabathia is the best candidate to pull the defending World Series champions from the grips of defeat. Javier Vazquez had a chance to do that last night, but allowed three runs over six innings of a 7-0 drubbing. Damaso Marte and Chad Gaudin both gave up two runs in relief for the Yankees, losers of two straight and three of four games.
Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis had the only hits off of Hernandez for New York, which still leads the American League East by one game over Boston. Tampa Bay is two games off the pace in the division standings. Teixeira is riding an 11-game hitting streak in which he has three homers and 10 RBI.
"He was as good a pitcher as we've faced all year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Hernandez. "Between his sinker, his changeup, curveball, I mean he was really on tonight."
Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-2 at the plate and is still six homers shy of becoming the seventh player in baseball history with 600 career home runs. Only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa have achieved the feat.
Meanwhile, Hernandez became the second Seattle pitcher in as many days to throw a complete game against the Yankees, as he gave up just two hits with three walks and 11 strikeouts in winning his third straight decision. Lee threw a complete game in a 7-4 win on Tuesday.
Michael Saunders had his first multi-home run game with a solo blast and a two-run shot, while Milton Bradley went deep and Russell Branyan clubbed a two-run homer for the Mariners, who have won three of four and nine of their last 12 contests.
"I've been a lot more confident going in and not putting too much pressure on myself," said Saunders. "The beauty of playing baseball is if you have a poor game you get to come back the next day and prove yourself."
Ryan Rowland-Smith has a lot to prove when he takes the ball for the M's tonight. This may be his last start in the rotation with Erik Bedard slated to return soon from shoulder surgery. Rowland-Smith has been a major disappointment this season and can only hope to have as much success as Lee and Hernandez in this series. He is just 1-7 with a 6.18 earned run average in 16 games (13 starts) this season and previously took the hill in an 8-3 setback at Milwaukee on Friday.
The left-hander lasted 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on five hits and two walks with a season high-tying four strikeouts. Opponents are batting .311 off of Rowland-Smith, who is winless (0-5) in eight road starts this season.
He has faced the Yankees six times in his career (2 starts) and is 0-0 with a 5.29 ERA, spanning 17 innings pitched. However, Rowland-Smith pitched well in a 4-2 loss versus New York back on August 14 last season at Safeco Field and recorded a no-decision for tossing seven innings of two-run ball.
Seattle and New York are meeting for the first time since the Yankees won six of 10 matchups a year ago. The last time the Mariners swept the Yankees in three games in the Bronx was during the 2002 season. New York has never been swept in its new stadium.