Known in abbreviated terms to his friends, CC Sabathia continued his torrid success since joining the Milwaukee Brewers, shutting down the Houston Astros and contributing offensively in a 9-3 complete-game victory Monday. The left-hander improved to 8-0 with his new team -- yielding just two earned runs while striking out nine -- and went the distance for the fifth time in nine Milwaukee starts.
Sabathia's biggest contribution came at the plate, when he flicked a two-run single with two outs to left field in the fourth, giving the Brewers a 3-0 lead. Astros starter Randy Wolf (2-1) intentionally walked Jason Kendall to reach Sabathia, a move that backfired further when both runners scored on hits by Ray Durham and J.J. Hardy.
Sabathia later ran the bases for a second time after singling in the sixth inning, adding to a taxing day that included 130 pitches.
"When you're out there, you don't really feel like you're tired or anything like that," Sabathia said. "I felt pretty good, and I was getting ground balls, so I had a feeling he was going to let me keep going."
"He" was manager Ned Yost, who said Sabathia was facing his final hitter when Lance Berkman bounced out to end the game. Sabathia faced seven batters in the ninth, allowing an unearned tally before shutting the door.
"I almost didn't let him face Berkman, but we couldn't make a play for him in the last inning, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to get the complete game," said Yost, who watched two infield singles and an error in the ninth. "The reason I let him go a little bit farther was because of the off-days coming up. He's going to pitch on six [days' rest] this time and a seven the time after that. That's why we did it -- allow our big guys to go deeper into games than they normally would go."
Yost recently announced the layout, which will keep all five pitchers on regular turns despite added off-days built into the schedule.
Yost used the leeway despite a sizeable edge, one attributed in great part to Sabathia. Durham followed the hurler's two-run chip shot in the fourth with the first of his three RBI base hits, and Hardy added a two-run single to spot Milwaukee a 6-0 lead.
|"Once he gets guys 1-2, 0-2, he's going for the jugular. He's looking to strike them out."|
-- Ray Durham,|
on CC Sabathia
Sabathia's voyage around the bases included a barreling slide into third base, narrowly in front of a relay throw, prior to Hardy's single in the fourth.
"They labor enough when they're out there pitching, but to run through the bases twice in that game, that takes a lot out of you," Yost said. "That's why the [eighth inning] was the first time we had CC bunt. I didn't want to take the chance of him getting any more hits and running the bases in the eighth inning."
Sabathia executed a sacrifice, and Durham delivered an RBI double to pad the advantage.
"I've been prepared, not only physically, but mentally," said Durham, whose atypical start against a left-hander came as Rickie Weeks nursed a sore thumb. "I get my work in during batting practice, so I stay ready. During the games, I constantly stretch and I'm in the cage, hitting off the tee, hitting live. I keep myself mentally prepared."
Corey Hart also had a big day at the plate, homering and finishing a triple shy of the cycle.
Sabathia showed chinks in his armor after Milwaukee's big inning, allowing solo home runs to Reggie Abercrombie and Ty Wigginton, but he fought through the blows.
"He always finds a way to kick it into another gear when runners get into scoring position," Yost said. "He's done that ever since he's been here. I'm sitting here trying to remember the last time they manufactured runs off him. "
Added Durham: "For a guy that throws as hard as he does and throws as many pitches as he does, he's always around the strike zone. He doesn't waste pitches. Once he gets guys 1-2, 0-2, he's going for the jugular. He's looking to strike them out."
Sabathia became the third starting pitcher in Major League history to switch teams in-season and win his first eight decisions. He joined Virgil Trucks (1953) and Doyle Alexander, who went 9-0 for the Detroit Tigers in the midst of the 1987 pennant race.
Hopefully for the Brewers, that record comes without foreshadowing. Alexander went on to post a 1.53 ERA after coming from the Braves, and he finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting despite two months in the league. The player going the other way in the trade, however, was future Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
Whether traded top prospect Matt LaPorta becomes Milwaukee's version of Smoltz remains to be seen, but the Brewers can live comfortably in the now. The win improved their advantage to 2 1/2 games over St. Louis in the Wild Card standings and moved them to within five games of the idle National League Central-leading Cubs, with another ace in Ben Sheets set to take the hill Tuesday.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.