CLEVELAND - C.C. Sabathia took the mound almost certain he needed to pitch a shutout. So he did.
Sabathia (4-8) pitched a five-hitter last night for his seventh career shutout as the Cleveland Indians defeated Minnesota, 1-0, extending the Twins' season-high losing streak to six games last.
"He was outstanding in every way," Indians manager Eric Wedge said of the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "He was as strong late, if not stronger, than he was early. He's one of the greatest pitchers in the game."
Sabathia has received an average of only 2.1 runs a game in his last nine starts, so when Ryan Garko doubled home a first-inning run off Scott Baker (2-1), the lefthander figured he had better make it stand up.
"My job is to keep it close and give us a chance to win," Sabathia said after pitching Cleveland's first 1-0 decision over the Twins since Sam McDowell in 1969. "If that means giving up five and we score six, fine. Tonight, though, I felt it was the best I've been all year."
Sabathia didn't allow a runner after the fourth, striking out five without a walk in his second shutout of the season. He blanked Oakland, 2-0, May 14 - but had been 0-3 in four starts since.
Cleveland's ace, a 19-game winner a year ago, retired the last 17 in a row. He was helped by some bad base running by the Twins. Minnesota has lost six straight for the first time since Sept. 12-16.
The Indians earned their second win a row for the first time since sweeping three games from Oakland May 13-15.
"C.C. was the story," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He shut us down, used all his pitches. I know what his record is this year, but he's tough. The home plate umpire [Joe West] said that's the best he's seen him the last two or three years."
Still, the Twins had a quick opportunity to get ahead when rookie Carlos Gomez opened the game with a single and went to second on a bunt single by Alexi Casilla. After Joe Mauer lined to left, Justin Morneau hit another line drive toward left-center. But Ben Francisco caught it without trouble and easily doubled off Gomez, who already had rounded third base.
"He was running with his head down," Gardenhire said. "He has to watch the ball. That was a young player's mistake."
In the third, Matt Macri got a bunt single but was caught breaking for second by Sabathia.
In the fourth, Mauer singled but was doubled off when Morneau hit a liner to second baseman Josh Barfield.
"They hit some balls hard, but it's always good to get double plays," Sabathia said.
Baker gave up one run and eight hits over seven innings. Francisco doubled with one out and scored on Garko's two-out single to center in the first.
"I didn't feel my stuff was overpowering," said Baker, who walked one and struck out one.
"I feel it was a pretty good start, but Sabathia was dominating."
Baker, sidelined most of May with a strained right groin, became the first Twins starter to work at least seven innings in 12 games - since Kevin Slowey's complete-game win May 29 against Kansas City.