NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia hadn't set foot on a big league mound in about three weeks, but as he walked off to a standing ovation on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, it seemed as though he hadn't missed a pitch.
Sabathia charged back into the Yankees' rotation with a sharp, economical six innings of scoreless ball, leading his club to a 6-1 victory over the Blue Jays on another steamy evening in the Bronx.
"It felt good being able to be home and make the first start back," said Sabathia, who allowed just four hits to pick up his 10th victory of the season. "It felt good to be able to get that standing ovation."
Andruw Jones crushed a three-run homer off Toronto starter Brett Cecil in the second inning, supporting the big lefty's return from his stint on the disabled list.
"I'm just feeling good at the plate; getting pitches and not missing them," Jones said. "That's the only thing. Right now, I'm just trying to stay in a groove, working hard and not missing the pitches."
Rafael Soriano was needed for a five-pitch save, inducing a game-ending double play after Chad Qualls and Clay Rapada had trouble closing the game out. Still, the Yankees have won eight of their last 10 games to move a season-high 22 games over .500.
"We've been doing a little bit of everything," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "We've been pitching, our starters are throwing well, our bullpen has been outstanding and we're hitting some home runs; coming up with some timely hits. We've got a pretty good combination of things right now."
Making his first start since June 24, when he sustained a slight groin strain pitching against the Mets, Sabathia went right back into his old rhythm and struck out six Toronto batters in an 87-pitch outing.
"I just tried to make sure I calmed myself down, made sure I threw strikes," Sabathia said. "I didn't want to get in long counts and have to overwork myself early. They were swinging early in the count, so that helped out."
Sabathia wasn't aware of a pitch count, but there was one in place, so his night was truncated somewhat. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had no intention of pushing the ace into his usual neighborhood of 100 pitches or more, and said he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild were surprised by how sharp Sabathia appeared.
"Larry and I talked about 85 pitches, maybe a few more depending on where we were at in the game, and that's what he gave us," Girardi said. "We'll bump it up the next time, and then there won't be any limitations on him."
Catcher Chris Stewart worked with Sabathia, as usual, and said he wasn't necessarily expecting a trademark effort. After catching a few tosses in the bullpen, though, Stewart thought he was in for a good night.
"I wasn't expecting as much velocity as he had tonight," Stewart said. "I was more concerned with him throwing the ball where it needed to be, keeping the balls down. Everything was that and more. He came out throwing hard, but it was where it needed to be, so I just let him do it."
Girardi went to the bullpen after Sabathia permitted a single to open the seventh. Cody Eppley and Boone Logan combined to pin Adam Lind at third base, preserving Sabathia's scoreless outing. Sabathia is 8-0 with a 2.49 ERA in nine starts vs. Toronto dating back to the beginning of the 2007 season.
"I felt good. I always feel like I can go longer, but that's Joe's job and it worked out," Sabathia said. "I feel excited. Hopefully I can keep this going, build off this and keep having good starts."
The Yankees got the only runs they'd need off Jones' bat in the second. Jones entered the game 0-for-9 lifetime with three strikeouts against Cecil before slamming his 12th homer of the season.
"Jones went down and got a decent pitch on a changeup that was on the outer part of the plate, but other than that, [Cecil] did his job tonight," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
The drive to left, coming with Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher aboard, marked Jones' 432nd career homer. That moved him past Cal Ripken, Jr. (431) for sole possession of 41st place on the all-time list.
"Andruw's been a complete player and he still plays good defense out there," Girardi said. "I'm very pleased with what he's done."
Cano had reached on a single, extending his hitting streak to a career-high 20 games -- the longest active streak in the Majors. The Yankees have now scored at least three runs in a franchise-record 41 straight games.
Jayson Nix had three hits for the Yankees, who added three runs in the seventh facing Sam Dyson. Chris Stewart and Jeter laced run-scoring doubles, and Alex Rodriguez added a bases-loaded fielder's choice. That was plenty on a night when Sabathia's performance carried the show.
"He looked like he looked before he got hurt," Jeter said. "CC is going to do that. He likes to be out there, he likes to finish his innings. He did exactly what we've come to expect."