NEW YORK (AP) — CC Sabathia has dominated the Red Sox all season. Now, he's calling them "weak" for bunting against him.
Sabathia shut down Boston for the fourth time this year and the New York Yankees got homers from Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird on the way to a 6-2 victory Thursday night in the opener of a pivotal four-game series.
In the first inning, speedy Eduardo Nunez tried to bunt for a hit. He reached safely on a throwing error by Sabathia, who has been pitching with a balky knee the past few years.
"Just kind of weak to me. It is what it is. It shows what they got over there," Sabathia said. "It just gets you fired up. It makes you want to beat them. Obviously, I want to win every time I go out there, but even more so after that."
Sabathia walked his next two batters. After getting consecutive strikeouts to escape a bases-loaded jam , he shouted in the direction of Boston's dugout.
He said the Red Sox show him "too much respect."
"Swing the bat," the veteran pitcher said.
Nunez said he apologized to Sabathia during the game — but made no apologies afterward for bunting.
"It's my game. I cannot change my game," Nunez said. "We know he has a bad knee. That's not my problem.
"If I have to bunt four times in a row, I'll do it. I don't care if he's mad or not," he added. "Play in, or field the bunt. I don't care."
Bird drove in three runs and Sanchez had two RBIs as the second-place Yankees shaved Boston's lead in the AL East to 4 1/2 games. This weekend set in the Bronx marks the final meeting of the season between the longtime rivals — and perhaps New York's last chance to make a serious run at its first division title in five years.
New York maintained a tenuous hold on the league's top wild card.
Sabathia (11-5) has won all four outings against the Red Sox this season while compiling a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings. The 37-year-old lefty, making his 250th start for the Yankees, permitted one run and four hits in six innings despite walking five Boston batters for the second time this year — equaling a season high.
Using a sharp slider, Sabathia struck out six. With timely help from his defense , he improved to 8-0 in 10 starts this year following a Yankees loss.
"I don't think it's a coincidence. I think it's who he is. It's what's made him so great for so long," New York manager Joe Girardi said.
David Robertson worked two hitless innings and Dellin Betances walked home a run in the ninth before retiring Mookie Betts and pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland with the bases loaded to end a game that lasted 3 hours, 44 minutes.
Sabathia has won five straight starts against Boston dating to last September.
"Guys that have notoriously been good against left-hand pitching have been in a dry run," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Whether it's CC or other left-handers, we're still searching."
At the plate, the Yankees finally solved lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5). They tied it 1-all on Sanchez's 28th homer in the third and went ahead when Nunez, the second baseman, misplayed Sanchez's popup into an RBI single in the fifth.
"Just happens sometimes," Nunez said. "I should have caught the ball."
Chase Headley doubled to start the sixth and Bird hit his second homer in two days . Didi Gregorius added an RBI single, and Bird had a run-scoring single in the seventh.
Rodriguez was charged with five runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings.