Two big innings in the first two games of this series have the New York Yankees in position to sweep the Chicago White Sox.
CC Sabathia owns baseball's worst ERA since the All-Star break, but he has pitched his best for the New York Yankees in September.
The Yankees hope Sabathia can begin to solve his woes when they look to continue their push for the playoffs by handing the visiting White Sox a sixth straight defeat Wednesday night.
New York (74-64) is trying to catch Tampa Bay for the AL's second wild card as it seeks its first three-game home sweep of Chicago (56-81) since Aug. 28-30, 2009.
The Yankees used an eight-run fourth inning to post Monday's 9-1 rout, then scored five in the eighth to rally for a 6-4 victory Tuesday.
The Yankees won for the 12th time in 14 home games Tuesday, as Eduardo Nunez 's two-run double capped the eighth-inning rally."It's a great win for us," manager Joe Girardi said. "We're trying to gain ground on teams, and every game is important."
It will be up to Sabathia (12-11, 4.91 ERA) to help New York maintain its momentum ahead of a four-game set with AL East-leading Boston that begins Thursday.
Sabathia is 3-3 with a 7.38 ERA since the All-Star break, going 3-1 despite a 6.17 ERA in his last four outings thanks to an offense that has totaled 24 runs of support in that span. He knows that he hasn't been at his best.
"If I can keep these guys in the game, we've got a good chance of winning," Sabathia said.
The left-hander is 9-5 with New York in 20 career starts in September with a 2.82 ERA - his lowest in any month.
Sabathia is 18-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 32 starts against the White Sox, including 4-0 with a 3.53 ERA in six with New York. The Yankees won the first five of those games before Mariano Rivera blew a ninth-inning lead in a 6-5, 12-inning loss Aug. 7 after Sabathia gave up three runs over 7 1-3 innings.
Girardi chose not to start left-handed hitters Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki against left-hander Chris Sale on Tuesday. Both could be in the lineup one night later when right-hander Erik Johnson (NR) makes his big league debut for Chicago.
The 23-year-old Johnson is considered one of the White Sox's top prospects. He has a 12-3 record with a 1.96 ERA over 24 combined starts between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.
"Whenever they send me back out there, I'm going to give it all I've got," Johnson told the White Sox's official website. "Every opportunity I get, I'll make the most of."
Chicago has dropped nine straight on the road against AL East foes.
|Chicago White Sox|
|September 03, 2013||Tyler Flowers||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|September 02, 2013||Tyler Flowers||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|August 20, 2013||Jeff Keppinger||Day-to-Day||Stiff lower back|
|August 16, 2013||Ramon Troncoso||15-Day DL||Pericarditis|
|August 15, 2013||Gordon Beckham||Day-to-Day||Strained right quad|
|August 05, 2013||Dayan Viciedo||Day-to-Day||Jammed left thumb|
|New York Yankees|
|August 22, 2013||Jayson Nix||60-Day DL||Fractured left hand|
|August 21, 2013||Jayson Nix||Day-to-Day||Broken left hand|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 03, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|July 27, 2013||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Strained right rotator cuff|
|July 23, 2013||Luis Cruz||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Desperately trying to gain ground in the playoff hunt, the New York Yankees have no time to mess around. That means an early call to Mariano Rivera now and again.
Struggling ace CC Sabathia pitched effectively into the eighth inning before Rivera earned his first four-out save in more than two years, helping New York hold off the Chicago White Sox 6-5 on Wednesday night for a three-game sweep.
"There are some situations that I have to do it. Tonight was one of those nights," Rivera said. "We had a lead and had to hold it. We need to do whatever it takes. Two outs, three outs, four outs - whatever it takes."
Robinson Cano homered for the Yankees, looking to chase down a playoff berth with their late-season charge. Brett Gardner hit a two-run triple and Lyle Overbay an RBI double in a four-run fourth against Erik Johnson (0-1), who was making his major league debut.
New York, which entered 2 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card, has won 15 of 18 home games and 17 of 24 overall. Swept in three games at Chicago from Aug. 5-7, the Yankees returned the favor a month later.
Next up for New York, an 11-game gauntlet against division rivals Boston and Baltimore - beginning Thursday night with a four-game set against the first-place Red Sox.
After winning 10 of 12, the last-place White Sox have lost six straight to start a 10-game trip against AL East contenders.
Cano finished with three hits and two RBIs.
With the Yankees leading 6-1 and seemingly in control, Sabathia (13-11) walked off to a warm ovation with two on and one out in the eighth. But normally reliable setup man David Robertson gave up an RBI single to Avisail Garcia , a two-run single to Josh Phegley with two outs and an RBI single to rookie Marcus Semien that cut the cushion to one.
Well aware of his team's precarious position in the pennant race, manager Joe Girardi quickly went to Rivera, who threw a called third strike past Alejandro De Aza to end the inning.
Rivera then got three quick outs in the ninth for his second save in two nights and 41st this season in 46 tries. It was his first save of more than three outs since July 24, 2011, against Oakland.
"I feel he's capable of doing it," Girardi said. "I brought Robertson in for four outs the other night, as well. As much as I can do it, and they're able, I will do it."
Baseball's career saves leader with 649, Rivera missed most of last season with a knee injury.
The only other time in 55 appearances this season the 43-year-old closer pitched more than one inning was when he blew a save Aug. 7 against the White Sox and wound up getting six outs.
"We brought in guys who have done the job all year and eventually, we got the job done," Girardi said.
Sabathia had his best outing in a month and improved to 19-4 in 33 career starts against the White Sox, the lowest-scoring team in the American League this year.
The 23-year-old Johnson allowed five runs - three earned - and seven hits over six innings. A second-round draft pick two years ago, he went 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 24 starts combined at Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham this season.
"It was a great feeling to be out there," said Johnson, who acknowledged being nervous early. "I think I could have just filled up the strike zone a bit better, worked ahead, especially with all my pitches. That was the main thing."
Combined with Semien and reliever Daniel Webb , they made the White Sox the first team this season to have three players make their major league debuts in the same game.
"That's the position that we're in," said manager Robin Ventura , happy with the efforts of all three. "It's a positive step."
Cano hit Johnson's 12th pitch to right field for his 203rd career home run, moving ahead of Hall of Famer Bill Dickey for 15th place on the franchise list.
Alex Rodriguez singled to start the fourth, and Johnson hurt himself with a bad throw. He shattered Ichiro Suzuki 's bat on a slow roller, then babied his soft throw to first base. Jeff Keppinger failed to scoop it, and Suzuki was safe on Johnson's error.
"It was just a tough bang-bang play and I just rushed it," Johnson said. "That kind of opened up the rally."
Overbay hit an RBI double and Gardner tripled to deep left-center before scoring on Cano's two-out infield single, a comebacker that deflected off Johnson's glove.
Alfonso Soriano added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
NOTES: The game began with only three umpires while Bruce Dreckman was treated by Yankees medical staff for a finger injury he sustained away from the ballpark. Dreckman came onto the field for the bottom of the first inning, umpiring at third base. He originally was scheduled to work home plate, but the assignments were rotated before the game. Crew chief Tim Welke moved from first base to home plate. ... Yankees RHP Ivan Nova was selected AL pitcher of the month for August after going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in six starts. Nova (8-4, 2.88 ERA) pitches Thursday night against Red Sox RHP Jake Peavy (11-5, 3.91). ... Semien singled in his first career at-bat.