In CC Sabathia's first start of the last week of the first half, he was overshadowed by Derek Jeter's chase of 3,000 hits.
All Sabathia did was throw seven shutout innings and strike out 11 Indians to send the Yankees on the way to their only victory during a trip to Cleveland. Jeter's big hit was out of the way when Sabathia closed out the first half of the season on Sunday, but he still wasn't the name on everyone's lips.
That was Alex Rodriguez, whose torn meniscus in his right knee was the center of pregame discussion on Sunday morning. The team waited until after the game to announce that he'll be having knee surgery that will cost him four to six weeks so everyone was wondering what A-Rod's fate would be while Sabathia was working.
He didn't make them wait long. Sabathia continued one of the finest rolls of his career by tossing a complete game shutout of the Rays. Sabathia struck out nine, allowed five baserunners and extended his scoreless innings streak to 23.2 innings in a 1-0 victory that took just over two hours.
Sabathia's streak is the longest of his career and everyone's hoping the All-Star break doesn't put an end to the fun.
The score makes clear that the Yankees needed every one of the 27 outs that Sabathia took care of on the afternoon. They only scored thanks to a pair of Rays mistakes in the seventh after Robinson Cano singled.
B.J. Upton tried to double up Cano after Jorge Posada flied out to center field, but his throw sailed wide and Cano wound up on third base. James Shields, working on his own masterpiece, boggled the minds of everyone watching by trying to pick Cano off third and his throw also went awry, allowing Cano to score the game's only run.
Shields and Sabathia were also connected in another way Sunday. Shields yielded his spot in the All-Star Game because Sunday pitchers aren't allowed to pitch in the game and organizers handed it to Sabathia in an attempt to correct one of the bigger snubs of the selection process.
Sabathia obviously couldn't take the spot thanks to the the same rule, leaving Alexi Ogando to go to Phoenix and the rest of us scratching our heads about a process that winds up leaving three guys calling themselves All-Stars when only one is actually eligible to go to the game. Sabathia needed no official confirmation of his status, not after another shutout performance.
The Yankees have gotten better than expected results from some pitchers this season, but that has made them no less dependent on Sabathia's ability to do what he did on Sunday. They need him to be a workhorse who wins them games, lets relievers rest and carries the offense when it doesn't show up.
Sabathia has done that all year and he's closed the first half with a serious flourish. He's the surest thing on a Yankee team with a lot of question marks right now, because there's nothing surer in all of sports than a big zero on the other team's side of the scoreboard.