He didn’t win a Cy Young or a World Series with the team, and he left for New York the following offseason, but in those three months Sabathia established a legitimate legacy in Milwaukee.
“I think I’ve had some pretty good stretches,” he said. “But not like that one.”
This afternoon, Sabathia will face the Brewers for the first time since he almost single-handedly carried the team into the playoffs in 2008. Traded from Cleveland in early July, Sabathia made 17 starts for Milwaukee that season. He pitched seven complete games, got 11 wins, had a 1.65 ERA and finished fifth in Cy Young voting despite spending half of the season in the American League.
He was heading toward free agency, but Sabathia made his final three starts on short rest, including a complete-game four-hitter in the final game of the season, which clinched a playoff spot.
“Sheets had gone down and got hurt, Yovani was still on the DL with the knee, so we really didn’t have anybody,” he said. “We were so close. Like I said, I felt so comfortable on that team that you felt the responsibility to go out there… I really didn’t want the season to end so I was trying to do whatever I can to try to keep us going as long as possible.”
Or, as Joe Girardi put it: “It was almost like he said, ‘Jump on my back, guys. Here we go.’”
It was a remarkable run while it was happening, and it’s hard to forget it three years later. Sabathia said his agent got mad at him in that final month. He didn’t want his client risking injury when free agency was only a few weeks away. Sabathia finally stopped answering his phone when his agent called.
“We probably didn’t even talk the last two weeks of the season,” Sabathia said. “I just stopped wanting to hear it.”
Associated Press photo