OAKLAND, Calif. — Minutes after CC Sabathia’s previous start, a brilliant seven shutout innings in Baltimore on May 4, Brian McCann took exception with the suggestion that the lefthander’s “ace” days are behind him.
“He is as good as they come,” McCann said. “He’s such a competitor, he’s going to find a way. We want him on the mound.”
Indeed, the 35-year-old seems to have found something.
Sabathia, who went on the disabled list a day after that Baltimore start with a left groin strain, returned Friday night and was nearly as good in an 8-3 victory over the incompetent A’s in front of 28,235 at O.co Coliseum.
Sabathia (3-2), who lowered his ERA from 3.81 to 3.41, allowed one run and three hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out a season-best eight.
The lengthy outing was of particular importance, given that Joe Girardi planned to stay away from his big arms in the back end of the bullpen. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman all had appeared in the previous two games.
The Yankees (19-22), winners of three straight games for the first time this season and 10 of 15 overall, had 13 hits, including three doubles by Carlos Beltran and two-run triples by Ronald Torreyes and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Beltran, who drove in three runs for the second straight night, and Torreyes, who got the start at third base in place of Chase Headley, had the big hits in a a five-run fourth that gave the Yankees a 5-1 lead.
The A’s (19-24), who committed three errors and misplayed several other balls, took a 1-0 lead in the second. Sabathia walked Billy Butler with one out and hit Stephen Vogt on the left wrist. He got Jake Smolinski — called up from Triple-A Nashville earlier in the day as the corresponding roster move for placing Josh Reddick on the disabled list — to fly to left, but Matt McBride lined an RBI single to left.
When Tyler Ladendorf pushed a bunt to the first-base side of the mound, Sabathia threw him out by a half-step, then stared down the No. 9 hitter while returning to the dugout.
The Yankees stranded five runners in the first three innings against righthander Sonny Gray but knocked him out in the fourth.
Aaron Hicks walked with one out and took third on a single to right by Didi Gregorius, who had three hits. Torreyes sent a 1-and-1 fastball into the gap in left-center, a ball that centerfielder Coco Crisp seemed to get a bad read on, for a two-run triple to make it 2-1.
After Jacoby Ellsbury reached on catcher’s interference — the fifth one he’s drawn this season, by far the most in the majors — a wild pitch made it 3-1.
After Gardner walked, Ellsbury went to third on another wild pitch. Beltran followed with a liner that sailed over the head of Crisp, who initially took a step in, for a two-run double that made it 5-1 and ended Gray’s night.
Gray (3-5, 6.19), who was 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA last season, allowed five runs (four earned) and six hits in 3 1⁄3 innings.
The long top half of the fourth didn’t hurt Sabathia, who ended up retiring 11 of the final 12 he faced.
Beltran had an RBI double in the sixth and Ellsbury added a two-run triple in the ninth.