It was the first time New York had faced Los Angeles Manager Joe Torre since he left the Yankees following the 2007 season. He guided the Yankees to six American League pennants and four World Series titles in a 12-year tenure.
Sabathia (9-3) gave up a first-inning, RBI single to Manny Ramirez, worked his way out of a second-inning jam and then turned aside the Dodgers on four hits while striking out seven.
Jorge Posada singled home Alex Rodriguez in the second to tie it and Rodriguez hit his 10th homer of the season in the sixth to break the deadlock.
Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth for his 17th save.
Vicente Padilla (1-2) suffered the hard-luck loss, turning in a seven-inning effort that included two runs on six hits with seven strikeouts.