Though the ace battled early command issues, he got back on track and waited for his lineup to take care of the rest. It obliged him: Mark Teixeira homered and drove in three runs and Jorge Posada logged a pair of RBIs, as the Yankees rolled to a 6-3 victory over the Athletics on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
"Just keep it there -- that's what I've been saying all year," Sabathia said. "I'm not trying to go out and throw shutouts and try to win the game myself. It's damage control, just keeping the game where it is until the offense can score some runs."
On what became a long but productive day at the office, increasing New York's lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games over idle Boston, Sabathia came out after a rain delay of two hours and 43 minutes and gave up an early three-run lead to the Athletics.
It wouldn't hold up, as the Yankees got it all back plus some. That support allowed Sabathia to cruise to another seven-inning outing -- the 12th time he has gone at least that far in his past 15 starts.
With Mariano Rivera unavailable after having worked five of the Yankees' past six games, Phil Hughes recorded the final six outs to log his first Major League save.
"It was good. I had a little cushion to work with, so that was nice," Hughes said. "It didn't sink in until they threw me the ball."
Hughes has not allowed a run in his past 15 outings and has compiled a 22-inning scoreless stretch, proving invaluable to a New York bullpen that desperately needed a talented arm to lean on.
"He's been really good," manager Joe Girardi said. "He has taken this role and really ran with it. He comes out with a lot of confidence and very good stuff every night."
New York spoiled the homecoming party for Vin Mazzaro, a 22-year-old right-hander from Rutherford, N.J., who grew up as a Bombers fan and made his 10th big league start in front of numerous family members and friends.
Teixeira belted a two-run homer to right field on a 3-0 pitch in the fourth inning before Posada stroked a game-tying double.
"The pitch has to be right down the middle and that's what I got," Teixeira said.
Eric Hinske gave the Yankees the lead with an RBI single, and New York added on with two additional runs against Mazzaro in the fifth. Teixeira collected his third RBI of the night with a double to right field, and Posada tacked on a run-scoring single up the middle to chase the rookie.
Mazzaro walked four and struck out seven, allowing eight hits and leaving as the pitcher of record on the long side, charged with six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
"The kid has got a great arm," Teixeira said. "Location was probably the difference."
Waiting out the long rain delay, the two clubs made up a contest that had originally been postponed on April 20 due to inclement weather.
Sabathia had some early trouble shaking off that stagnant feeling. Jack Cust lifted a sacrifice fly and Bobby Crosby stroked an RBI single in the second inning to give Oakland an early lead and Kurt Suzuki logged a run-scoring hit in the fourth.
But that was all the A's would manage against Sabathia, who held Oakland to three runs on nine hits over seven innings. He said the key was keeping his changeup down and limiting free passes.
"That's definitely important -- keeping guys off," Sabathia said.
The left-hander walked none and struck out four in the 109-pitch (71 strikes) outing, posting his third victory in four starts and improving to 4-7 in 17 career starts against Oakland.
"Good pitching, great lineup and good 'D,'" Sabathia said. "I mean, this is our team. We've got a lot of talent in here, and it's coming together. The timing is great."
The victory gave the Yankees a timely seven-game winning streak for the second consecutive year coming out of the All-Star break, having also run off an eight-game win streak following the Midsummer Classic at the old Yankee Stadium in 2008.
"We're just playing really well," Hughes said. "It's the same team, the same guys. It's not like we're trying to do anything different. We're getting great starting pitching and scoring some runs. It all starts with starting pitching."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.