CLEVELAND — The only walking C.C. Sabathia did was to the dugout after each scoreless inning.
Cleveland’s ace left-hander pitched his fifth career shutout and the Indians kept rolling at home, defeating the Kansas City Royals 1-0 Tuesday night.
“Us winning means more to me than me winning, it really does,” said Sabathia (9-1), who struck out eight and walked none in joining John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels as the majors’ only nine-game winners.
Sabathia allowed five singles, but said he wasn’t worried about trying to hold a one-run lead in the late innings. His focus was on the big picture — getting Cleveland back to postseason play for the first time since he was a rookie in 2001.
“I know I need to be ‘The Guy’ if we’re going to the playoffs,” he said. “In a game like this, I don’t think about making a mistake. I think about continuing what’s going right.”
Sabathia improved to 4-0 in five starts since May 16, while the Indians increased baseball’s best home record to 20-6. Sabathia is 6-0 in eight starts at Jacobs Field.
“He threw 111 pitches and only a half dozen were in the middle of the plate,” the Royals’ Mike Sweeney said. “The rest were on the corners. He showed tonight he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.”
Cleveland improved to 16-6 in the AL Central with its first win of the year over the Royals, who took two of three from the Indians on May 22-24 in Kansas City. The Royals have lost 10 of 12.
Franklin Gutierrez led off the third with his first homer of the season off Jorge De La Rosa (4-6). The Royals’ lefty allowed five hits and one run over 71/3 innings, striking out a career-high seven and walking two.
De La Rosa lost his third straight start. He had given up 14 runs over 91/3 innings in back-to-back defeats, to the Indians on May 24 and Baltimore five days later.
“C.C. was great; De La Rosa was great,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “The only bad pitch he threw, Gutierrez hit it out.”
Sabathia walked none for the second time this season. He has walked only eight in his last 70 innings and not more than one in any of his last 10 starts dating to April 20.
“That’s why he’s our No. 1,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “C.C. was in control right through the ninth inning, using all his pitches.”
Sabathia pitched his first shutout since a three-hitter against Baltimore last July 7. A year ago, he led baseball with six complete games and tied for second in the AL with two shutouts.
Indians catcher Victor Martinez twice threw out runners trying to steal. Sabathia pumped his fist when he struck out Mark Teahen and Martinez threw out pinch-runner Angel Berroa to complete a double play to end the seventh.
“At that point, that’s the play of the game right there,” Sabathia said.
Only one Royals runner reached second base. Sweeney opened the second with an infield single and moved up on Emil Brown’s one-out single. But Sabathia got John Buck to fly to center and struck out Ryan Shealy to end the threat.
“We’ve faced C.C. for seven years,” Sweeney said. “Before this year everyone looked at him as a thrower. He’d come at you in the first inning throwing 97 (mph) and with a hard slider.
“Tonight he was throwing behind-in-the-count changeups and staying on the corners. Now, he’s a pitcher.”
Gutierrez, called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Thursday, hit a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-center for his second career homer. His first came against the Royals last Aug. 13.
Gutierrez also made a sliding catch of a foul fly hit by Tony Pena to open the ninth.
“Gutz got the big homer and the big catch,” Wedge said. “Outside of C.C., he was the difference.”