BOSTON — It was less than two weeks ago that CC Sabathia contemplated retirement after injuring his right knee in Toronto.
Saturday night, however, Sabathia came off the disabled list and outpitched Chris Sale and became the American League’s all-time leading left-hander in strikeouts, leading the New York Yankees to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Sabathia (10-5, 3-0 against Boston) passed Mickey Lolich with his 2,680th career strikeout en route to working six innings and allowing two hits. He has yielded two runs in 20 innings against the first-place Red Sox, who saw their lead in the American League East drop back to four games over the Yankees.
Sabathia improved to 7-0 with a 1.46 ERA after Yankee losses this season.
The loss was just the third in 16 games for the Red Sox, while the Yankees have won five of their last six.
Tyler Austin crashed a three-run homer in his first career at-bat against Sale (14-5) in the second inning and Todd Frazier hit his second homer in as many nights for the Yankees.
Austin, robbed of extra bases by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fourth, doubled to lead off the ninth.
Adam Warren gave up a solo homer to rookie sensation Rafael Devers — his eighth home run in 20 major league games, in another two-hit game — in the seventh and David Robertson struck Xander Bogaerts out on three pitches to end an eighth-inning threat created by a wild pitch on a strikeout that should have ended a 1-2-3 inning.
With Aroldis Chapman demoted from the closer role, Dellin Betances worked the ninth for his ninth save — and he also had to pitch around a strikeout/wild pitch. Gary Sanchez caught pinch runner Brock Holt stealing for the second out and Bradley flied out to end it.
Didi Gregorius had three hits in the win.
The Red Sox have scored seven runs in Sale’s five losses. He went seven innings, allowing a season high-tying-four extra-base hits and striking out nine.
The Yankees went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and are 2-for-17 in that department in the two games, stranding 22 runners.
Sabathia, who snared Mookie Betts‘ liner back to the mound in the first inning, made Devers his third strikeout victim in the third inning, breaking Lolich’s record.
Gregorius doubled with one out in the second inning and Sale then drilled Frazier on the outside of the left leg with a pitch before Austin, who returned from Triple-A on Thursday, hit one out of Fenway Park for his second homer of the year.
In the fourth, Austin was robbed of extra bases by a leaping Jackie Bradley Jr. in deep center.
The Red Sox scored their first runs against Sabathia in 19 innings this season in the fifth. Sandy Leon drove in one run with a groundout and Bradley delivered a two-out RBI single, with Devers beating Brett Gardner‘s throw home with a nifty headfirst dive.
Judge struck out his last three times up to break a tie with former pitcher Bill Stoneman with a strikeout in 36 straight games. He also tied Adam Dunn‘s record of 36 Ks in two different seasons.
NOTES: Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game he is taking LHP Aroldis Chapman out of the closer’s role as Chapman continues to struggle, saying, “I will use him at any point” and adding Chapman was OK with the decision. … The umpires were wearing dark blue sweatbands on their left arms in solidarity with their union, which is complaining over Ian Kinsler‘s recent harsh words aimed at ump Angel Hernandez. Umps earlier in the day wore white bands. … RHP Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder inflammation) is tentatively scheduled to come off the disabled list to pitch for the Yankees in Detroit Tuesday. … LHP Jordan Montgomery, whose innings are being watched, was sent back to Triple-A to make room for CC Sabathia. … RHP Sonny Gray faces the Red Sox for the first time in a Yankees uniform when he faces RH Rick Porcello in Sunday’s series finale. … LHP David Price (elbow) received treatment and didn’t throw for a fourth straight day.