NEW YORK (AP) — Two starts into his final season, CC Sabathia has yet to allow an earned run.
Even at 38 years old, he's still playing stopper for the Yankees as he closes in on some impressive milestones.
Sabathia earned his first win of the year and Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer as New York beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2 on Friday night.
"He's the same guy every day, has been for the last 10 or 11 years," Gardner said. "He's a great teammate, he's a great competitor and I think he sets a great example for all the young guys that we have in the room."
Mike Tauchman also went deep and the Yankees got four solid innings from their bullpen. They bounced back from a listless performance against last-place Kansas City in the series opener, when they were held without an extra-base hit for the first time since Aug. 5.
Sabathia (1-0) gave up an unearned run and three hits over five innings, improving to 15-1 in the regular season following a Yankees loss since 2017. He threw five shutout innings last Saturday against the White Sox to help New York snap a four-game skid.
"Just craftiness," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Fastballs in, cutters on your hands, changeups away, fastballs away. A little bit of a sink, a little bit of a cut, moving it in and out."
Sabathia overcame four walks and finished with five strikeouts to leave him six shy of becoming the 17th pitcher and only third left-hander to reach 3,000.
"I can't sit here and lie — I'm just ready for it to be over with," Sabathia said. "I think it'll be pretty cool. It will definitely be a relief so I can just go out and worry about the rest of the season and play and try to win a championship, because that's all I'm really concerned about. But with it being so close, it's hard for it not to be right there in your head."
Sabathia, who has 247 major league wins, was pulled after 86 pitches in his second start following offseason operations on his heart and right knee. He plans to retire after this season, his 19th in the majors.
"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Right fielder Clint Frazier threw out a runner at the plate to aid Sabathia, and Tauchman launched his second big league homer leading off the fifth.
Luis Cessa permitted a run on back-to-back doubles by Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon to begin the sixth, but pinned a runner at third base with consecutive strikeouts to preserve a 3-2 lead. Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton closed with hitless relief in an intermittent rain.
Gardner put New York ahead 2-1 in the third with his drive off Jakob Junis (1-2), making his first appearance at Yankee Stadium since his fastball broke Aaron Judge's wrist last July. The right-hander dropped to 0-3 in the Bronx.
Judge doubled to start the sixth and scored when center fielder Billy Hamilton made a diving catch of DJ LeMahieu's bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Luke Voit, who has reached base safely in 30 straight games dating to last season, scored on a passed ball.
Kyle Higashioka hit a leadoff double in the seventh and scored when Dozier made a throwing error from third base on Tyler Wade's bunt single.
Adalberto Mondesi had an RBI single in the third when the Royals took advantage of two Yankees errors — one by Sabathia. But he retired Gordon on a tapper in front of home plate with the bases loaded to end the inning.
"Made some big pitches when he really needed to and gave us what we needed," Boone said. "That inning could have gotten away from us."
AGENT ZERO: Ottavino struck out Terrance Gore leading off the seventh, the first time in major league history two players wearing number zero faced each other. "I thought I had faced somebody before that, but I was wrong," Ottavino said. "I really don't know what to say about it, honestly. Two guys with a stupid number."
TRAINER'S ROOM: Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (shoulder impingement syndrome) is scheduled to make a rehab start Saturday night for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Duffy has been on the 10-day injured list all season.
Yankees: For the first time since his injury, 3B Miguel Andújar (labrum tear in right shoulder) made throws from third to first base at about 50% effort before the game and said he felt good. Andújar and the Yankees remain optimistic he'll be able to avoid season-ending surgery. ... C Gary Sánchez (strained left calf) caught J.A. Happ's bullpen and was hoping to be cleared by the doctor to begin a rehab assignment. Sánchez is likely to need a game or two in the minors and could rejoin the Yankees on their West Coast swing, which begins Monday. ... OF-DH Giancarlo Stanton (left biceps strain) also might be able to return at some point on the nine-game road trip, Boone said.
UP NEXT: Royals right-hander Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA) starts Saturday afternoon against RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22), weather permitting.