With 26 major league seasons between them, Lyle Overbay and Torii Hunter know an ace when they see one.
Overbay spent four years in Toronto with Roy Halladay, while Hunter watched Johan Santana put together a remarkable five-year run in Minnesota.
As Hunter reached first base with a leadoff single in the eighth inning, the two compared notes on the brilliant performance they had seen from CC Sabathia on a day the Yankees desperately needed one.
“I know his velocity was 90-91, but I promise you, he’s pitching better,” Hunter said. “I’ve seen this kid grow and he’s not a kid anymore. He’s gotten smarter; he changes speeds and keeps us off balance now instead of just trying to overpower us. I think he’s become a better pitcher every year.”
Added Overbay: “It’s nice to know we have that every fifth day. Not every team has that.”
With the Yankees facing their worst start since 1989, Sabathia delivered seven sparkling innings of shutout ball against a powerful Tigers team that had battered the Bombers for 16 runs on 26 hits over the first two games of the series.
Matched up against Justin Verlander with the Yankees in danger of being swept, Sabathia did what he had to do to get the Yankees back into the win column.
Staked to an early 3-0 lead, Sabathia allowed only one baserunner to get past first base all day, giving the Tigers one at-bat with a man in scoring position while he was on the mound.
“When I was with the Blue Jays, we felt the same way about Roy, like he was going to go out and do that every time,” Overbay said. “Those ace-type guys can shut down any hot team. The Tigers had 17 hits (Saturday), so I think you could say they were hot.”