Last time CC Sabathia pitched was Game 5 of the division series, on the night after Justin Verlander had delivered a complete game to get the Tigers into the ALCS. How did Sabathia respond? A complete game of his own to get the Yankees into the next round.
“I knew that he pitched well and threw a complete game,” Sabathia said. “But that wasn’t the reason why I felt I went out and pitched a good game. I was really concerned about our team and our situation and trying to get us to the next round. Obviously I know he’s a great pitcher — had a conversation with him, you know, a lot and talking back and forth and texting back and forth — so I know he’s great and one of the best pitchers in the league and I have a lot of respect for him, but I just try to go out and do my thing.”
There seems to be an on-going debate about whether Sabathia himself is a “true ace,” but there’s little doubt he’s the pitcher the Yankees want to have on the mound for tonight’s absolute must-win Game 4. Debate all you want whether he should have started last night on short rest — honestly, would it have made any difference behind such a lifeless offense? — but there is at least some hope with the big man on the mound tonight.
“We obviously always look forward to seeing him,” Joe Girardi said. “We know the competitor he is and how he will grind out a game. He’s never going to get too caught up with what happened the pitch before or the play before, and he has outstanding stuff and he knows how to win.”
Winning is all that matters tonight, but there’s only so much Sabathia can do. This team still needs to hit, and tonight it has to hit against hard-throwing Max Scherzer. They have to give Sabathia something to work with.
“I always want to go out and try to shut the other team down and give us as many opportunities to score,” Sabathia said. “As cold as we are (offensively), we can get just as hot, especially with our lineup and the veterans we have and great players we have. We always had a faith that if you go out there and do your job, you are going to score runs, and we have all year, really.”
Win tonight, and the Yankees get to pitch Andy Pettitte in Game 5. Win that game, and it’s Hiroki Kuroda at home in Game 6. Win that game, and it’s Sabathia on short rest in Game 7. Pitching is the only thing the Yankees have going for them right now, and tonight they’re going with their very best to try to keep this series alive.
“I am definitely looking forward to getting a chance to pitch in this series,” Sabathia said. “You know, I felt pretty good the last two or three times out and felt good in the bullpen, so I just look to continue to build off of that, make sure I have my command down, the fastball command, and really work off that. But I always say, whether good or bad, I always put the last one behind me. I’m ready.”
Associated Press photos