The big left-hander gave up 10 hits Monday night, matching a season high, and it may have been one of his most impressive performances to date.
Sabathia pitched eight strong innings to earn his major league-best 16th win and the Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox 3-2 on Monday for their fourth consecutive victory.
"I thought he had to gut it up because his stuff wasn't as sharp as we've seen it in the past," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's a true ace."
Sabathia managed to wiggle out of trouble all night as the White Sox struggled to score without injured slugger Paul Konerko. They put the tying run in scoring position in the fifth, sixth and seventh and came away with nothing each time.
"When a guy gets into scoring position off of CC Sabathia, he pumps it up," said Gordon Beckham, who finished with two hits for Chicago. "He was hitting 98 in the seventh or eighth inning. It's frustrating, yeah, but we battled against him and we just came up short."
Sabathia (16-5) improved to 9-1 with a 1.76 ERA in his last 10 starts, burnishing his credentials for a second AL Cy Young Award. He has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 21 outings.
"I had to battle a little bit and just try to make pitches," he said. "They put some good at-bats together on me, hit some balls hard and me and Cervy (catcher Francisco Cervelli) were able to get out of some tough situations."
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth for his 28th save in 32 chances and second in as many days.
White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (4-5) settled down after a rough start and pitched seven effective innings. The 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner gave up three runs and eight hits, but still dropped his fourth consecutive decision.
"Tonight I tried to pace myself and I felt a little bit better going deeper in the ballgame," Peavy said. "That's a great sign for me and I'm excited by it."
Both teams were without their captains for the opener of the four-game series. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter rested with a bruised right middle finger and is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday, but Konerko could miss the next couple of days with a bruised left calf.
Both All-Stars were injured when they were hit by a pitch on Sunday.
"I can't bear any weight," Konerko said. "That's probably the main thing. Just very weak. That's very normal where I got hit. Just keep working at it."
The inconsistent White Sox trail AL Central-leading Detroit by 4½ games, and could lose more ground if they are without their best player for a prolonged stretch. Konerko leads Chicago regulars with a .305 batting average, 25 homers and 76 RBIs.
His absence was felt almost immediately.
Fill-in first baseman Adam Dunn made a nice diving stop on Brett Gardner's leadoff grounder in the first, but couldn't get the ball out of his glove in time to retire the speedy outfielder. Curtis Granderson followed with a run-scoring double into the right-field corner and came around to score when Robinson Cano's hard, one-out grounder skipped past Dunn for an RBI single.
Dunn also struck out in each of his last three at-bats, including with a runner on to end the sixth and the eighth. He went 0 for 4 against Sabathia and is 3-for-77 with 35 strikeouts against lefties this year.
The burly slugger, who signed with Chicago over the winter, once again heard more jeers from a frustrated crowd of 24,142 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Granderson scored on Cano's double-play grounder to give New York a 3-0 lead in the third, but the Yankees struggled after their fast start. They recorded six of their eight hits in the first three innings.
Girardi said 3B Alex Rodriguez (right knee surgery) is expected to resume baseball activities on Thursday at the team's spring facility in Florida. ... RHP Ivan Nova will start the series finale Thursday, giving New York a six-man rotation for at least the next week. The move provides some extra rest for aging starters Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia, and likely sets up a competition between Phil Hughes and Nova for a starting spot. Hughes is scheduled to face LHP John Danks on Tuesday. ... Peavy threw a season-high 115 pitches.