LOS ANGELES - C.C. Sabathia made a pregame promise to his teammates that he’d swing for the fences.
He backed up that boast in a hurry.
Sabathia hit a tape-measure home run in his first at-bat of the year and also struck out 10, highlighting the Cleveland Indians’ 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 11 innings Saturday.
“I told everybody I was trying to hit homers today because I had two singles last year and everybody was all over me, saying I was a singles hitter,” the reigning AL Cy Young winner said. “It was awesome.”
Sabathia enhanced his reputation on the mound and at the plate in the interleague game at Dodger Stadium. He launched a home run estimated at 440 feet and improved to 12-for-40 (.300) lifetime as a hitter with two career homers and seven RBIs.
He didn’t even take any practice swings in the on-deck circle or going up to the plate because he spent too much time trying to locate his batting helmet.
“It’s always fun for me to hit,” Sabathia said. “I took BP the other day in Colorado, but that was it. I’ve been looking forward to this. I started counting the days back in May, trying to figure if I was going to hit in Colorado or hit here. I love to do it, so it was a lot of fun today.”
With NL rules in effect, Sabathia wasted little time once he got to the plate. He drove a 1-0 fastball from Chan Ho Park into the lower seats in the right-field corner leading off the third, drawing a collective gasp from the crowd of 45,036.
“I was just looking for a fastball out over the plate,” said the 6-foot-7, 290-pound pitcher, who did a slow trot around the bases in the 95-degree heat. “Everybody was laughing when I got back to the dugout.”
Sabathia’s other home run came in 2005 against Elizardo Ramirez at Cincinnati, a two-run shot to center field in a 10-3 victory.
“C.C. told me he couldn’t sleep last night. I don’t think it was because of his pitching. I think it was because he knew he was going to get a chance to hit,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s a fantastic athlete.”
Sabathia allowed one run and five hits and improved his league-leading strikeout total to 107. The big lefty took a three-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the sixth before Matt Kemp hit his seventh home run of the season.
“He’s a good hitter. He put the bat right on the ball, and that’s what he’s supposed to with a pitch like that,” Sabathia said. “I wanted it a little more in, but unfortunately I left it on the inner third of the plate — and that’s right in his spot.”
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