Yanks' Sabathia third lefty in 3,000-strikeout club

PHOENIX -- As he nears the end of what might be a Hall of Fame career, CC Sabathia added to his extensive Cooperstown résumé Tuesday night at Chase Field by recording his 3,000th major league strikeout.

The milestone K came in the bottom of the second inning of the New York Yankees' series-opening 3-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sabathia got catcher John Ryan Murphy swinging at a changeup as he struck out the side.

Sabathia is the 17th pitcher in big league history, and the third southpaw, to reach 3,000 strikeouts.

"When I actually got that last strike, I didn't want it to be Murph," Sabathia said of the former second-round Yankees draft pick. "Me and him are really close, I've been knowing him his whole career."

Sabathia and Murphy played together in the Bronx from 2013 to 2015, with Murphy having caught Sabathia 15 times.

Ahead of Murphy's at-bat, Sabathia picked up two quick strikeouts in the inning before Diamondbacks second baseman Wilmer Flores hit a two-out solo homer. On the two pitches before the 382-foot blast, many of the 36,352 fans present had been chanting "CC, CC, CC" and "Let's go, CC."

Though the cheers didn't work on the Flores at-bat, they did when Murphy came to the plate.

Ultimately handed the loss, Sabathia left the game after 5⅓ innings, having given up two earned runs, five hits and two walks, and striking out five.

As Sabathia walked off the mound in the second inning after the momentous inning-ending strikeout, he was met near the Yankees' first-base side dugout by teammates and coaches who swarmed him with daps and hugs and handshakes. A graphic also flashed on the center-field video board congratulating Sabathia on reaching the milestone.

Before the game, right fielder Aaron Judge and fellow Yankees lefty J.A. Happ asked manager Aaron Boone what course of action the team should take when the key strikeout was recorded.

Boone told them not to have a plan -- just go with the flow.

"I just said, 'We're going to react. We're going to let the moment tell us what to do,'" Boone said. "We're not going to take a cue from anyone. We're just going to respond to the moment in celebration of our guy."

The celebration lasted a couple of minutes along the warning track by the dugout before Sabathia disappeared inside it. At some point after Sabathia came back into the dugout, Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez handed him the historic ball.

"The experience to catch his 3,000th strikeout is something that I'll never forget," Sanchez said through an interpreter.

When he finally emerged from the dugout, Sabathia had a bat and helmet in his hands as he waved and acknowledged the cheering crowd.

In the next instant, he looked over to a gap in the protective netting, where his children, Carsten Charles III, Carter Charles, Jaeden Arie and Cyia Cathleen -- none of whom was alive to see his first career strikeout in April 2001 -- had peered through to greet him with congratulatory hugs.

Each of his children, as well as his wife, Amber, mom Margie, and other family members and friends have traveled across the country with Sabathia and the Yankees in recent weeks as he has chased 3,000. For his oldest, it has meant missed high school baseball games.

"It's been fun with them, traveling around the last three starts to every city, so we've enjoyed our time together and hanging out," Sabathia said. "It's a very special time right now to have everybody in town."

Nearly an hour after the game, Sabathia and his friends and family were still celebrating the moment, soaking it up on the field.

Even before Tuesday's game, Sabathia's manager was soaking up the history he was about to witness.

"It's one of those awesome numbers: 3,000 hits, 500 homers, 3,000 strikeouts," Boone said before the game. "That's what I grew up with in my mind, and I think I got to see Rod Carew hit 3,000, Reggie [Jackson] 500 [homers], Don Sutton 3,000 [strikeouts], 300 wins.

"Those are magical numbers in our sport, and people should take notice when people come up upon them."

Boone expanded on that thought after the game.

"In a game that dates back to the 1800s, to be only the 17th guy to get to 3,000 is amazing," Boone said. "But it means a lot to the guys in that room, because they know who he is.

"Obviously frustrated with the loss, but [Tuesday] is about us celebrating a man and what's been an amazing career."

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo doesn't know Sabathia anywhere near as well as Boone, but he still believed Sabathia's feat deserved the attention it received.

"If you're a baseball fan, you have to appreciate what you saw today," Lovullo said.

One of Sabathia's longtime opponents, former Orioles outfielder and current Diamondbacks right fielder Adam Jones, certainly has taken notice. When speaking to ESPN about the pitcher who he said treated him "like a little brother" over the years, Jones recognized multiple parts of the historic significance of Sabathia's accomplishment.

"He's one of the biggest names in the game for the last two decades, and he's the [third] African American pitcher with at least that many strikeouts," said Jones, who entered Tuesday with 105 career plate appearances against Sabathia, the most against any pitcher in his 14-year career.

Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Fergie Jenkins are the only other black pitchers to have amassed 3,000 strikeouts in their careers. Like Sabathia, Gibson and Jenkins are part of the 15-man group of "Black Aces," a collection of the only black pitchers to have won 20 or more games in a season. The group's founding member, Don Newcombe, who posted the first of his three 20-win seasons in 1951, died earlier this year.

"Being a 'Black Ace' is something that I take very seriously," Sabathia said. "So to be on that list as one of three guys with 3,000 strikeouts, it's hard to grasp, it's hard to think about it. But it's cool to be on that list."

Added Jones: "That's pretty historic. This is just another sign that [Sabathia] is building his résumé for Cooperstown. I've played against him for 12 years, and I can say that the competition against him is always A-1. You always know when you face him that the intensity is going to be high.

"He deserves everything that's coming his way."

Sabathia is the first pitcher to cross the 3,000-strikeout threshold since John Smoltz did it for the Atlanta Braves on April 22, 2008. Smoltz struck out the Washington Nationals' Felipe Lopez swinging in the third inning of that game.

In February, two months after an unexpected offseason angioplasty that followed an earlier offseason knee surgery, Sabathia, a former first-round draft pick, announced he would be retiring after 19 seasons.

Earlier this season, Sabathia admitted he has been thinking about getting his 3,000th strikeout since spring training. Because he came into the year just 11 strikeouts shy of the milestone, he found it difficult to avoid thinking about it.

"Just ready to get it over with," he said two starts ago.

Of the pitchers to have previously reached 3,000 strikeouts, all but two -- Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling -- have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

When the Yankees visited San Francisco on Friday, Sabathia was treated to a two-minute, between-innings montage on the Oracle Park video board recognizing his accomplishments as a pitcher. His upcoming 3,000th strikeout was mentioned.

Fittingly, the Giants were the first team to recognize Sabathia, a native of neighboring Vallejo, California, during a Yankees road trip this season. Asked about that video, Sabathia simply smiled and said seeing it was "cool."