TORONTO -- A network of spies at Rogers Centre and a bug in the visiting dugout might not have derailed CC Sabathia's latest superb start.
Hours after manager Joe Girardi suggested that the Blue Jays "could be" using off-the-field means to steal the Yankees' signs, Sabathia delivered precisely what his club needed in a 4-1 victory Saturday afternoon before 45,606 fans.
"To not win for a week, that's what it felt like," Girardi said of the relief generated by the Yanks' first victory since the All-Star break ended. "And CC was able to do it for us."
In winning his seventh straight start, Sabathia (14-4) limited the Jays to one early run and just three hits in eight innings halting a two-game skid against the Jays, and extending the Yanks' daytime record to a blinding 27-5.
"The first two games after the break we got our butts kicked," Mark Teixeira said of Toronto outscoring the Yanks 23-8. "That's a good team across the way. And CC really stopped their momentum."
Girardi hinted that Toronto's advantage might have been enhanced by sign stealing, and not by conventional on-field means.
"Sometimes we have inclinations that things might be happening in certain ballparks and we're aware of it, and we try to protect ourselves," Girardi said before the game. "The last thing you want is for a hitter to know what's coming."
Toronto manager John Farrell seemed perplexed when Girardi's thoughts were relayed.
"Honestly, I really don't have any idea what that comment could be stemming from," Farrell said. "We play this game to compete and prepare every day, and we don't look to any other means than what takes place in between the lines."
After the Jays' 16-7 win Thursday, catcher Russell Martin was convinced that Toronto had swiped his signs to Bartolo Colon during an eight-run first inning. Martin put the blame on himself, believing that the sign stealing was coming from runners at second base.
Since then, Girardi has ordered his starters to use multiple sign sequences.
There is a restaurant and hotel suites with ballpark views located in centre field, providing fodder for anyone suspicious of possible places to surreptitiously gather and relay signs.
"I mean, obviously, if you feel it's coming somewhere else besides a player on the field, yeah, I do have issues with that," Girardi said. "But there's ballparks where you need to protect your signs."
Girardi added that he wasn't being accusatory. "I'm not 100 per cent sure about anything."
Sabathia remains the Yankees' best bet, though Saturday's start didn't begin as a sure thing.
"Everything early was pretty bad," the lefty said of his first-inning command. His run of 23 straight scoreless innings ended with Yunel Escobar's one-out, RBI single.
The Yankees (54-37) took a 2-1 lead in the second inning off lefty starter Ricky Romero (7-9), and tacked on single runs in the third and fourth.
Nick Swisher's one-out, ground rule double to centre was following by Andruw Jones' game-tying RBI single in the second. After Brett Gardner (3-for-4) doubled, Eduardo Nunez's RBI groundout put the Yanks ahead.
By pausing over the pitching rubber a bit longer, Sabathia quickly regained his devastating mix of fastballs, sliders and change-ups.
Sabathia struck out eight, walked three, and watched from the dugout as Mariano Rivera surrendered two singles before he notched his 23rd save.
Afterward, Sabathia said his game plan hadn't changed due to the sign-stealing suspicions. "We didn't know if they are, or they aren't (stealing signs)," he said. Regardless, Teixeira anticipated another shutout.
"The last three months, there hasn't been a guy better in baseball," said Teixeira.
-- Bergen (N.J.) Record