The Yankees, in an ironic twist that only a sport like baseball can produce, turn to not one of their Baby Bombers to pitch the deciding game of the ALDS, but instead, their hopes are pinned on a 38-year old man who doesn’t have a job next season. How wonderful is that?
Yankees starter, CC Sabathia, has won 247 games in his big league career. He made 27 starts for the Yankees this season with a record of 14-5 with a 3.70 ERA. In 2009, Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner went all out on a spending spree that netted Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in a last-ditch effort to bring the organization a World Championship. Sabathia delivered nineteen wins that year, plus two wins in the ALCS against the Angels, propelling the Yankees to their 26th, and last, Championship.
Tomorrow night, Joe Girardi, whether by luck or design, hands the ball to the “ole man” in the fifth and deciding game of the 2017 ALDS. This game is made for Sabathia and no one else on the Yankees staff with the possible exception of Luis Severino. A week ago I published a piece titled, Hey Joe, don’t forget about CC. I followed that one with another one titled, The Ole Man is the right man for the job and damned if wasn’t in a no-decision game against Cleveland in which he surrendered only two earned runs in 5.1 innings, a game the Yankees eventually lost when the bullpen fell apart. Here’s Sabathia following his outing.
Sabathia is all about finesse at this stage of his career. He’s one of the few pitchers in the game who has made the transition from hurler to pitcher. Gone are the days when he regularly racked up from 197-251 strikeouts in a season six times. Now, he relies on keeping hitters off balance and locating his pitches. He’ll make a mistake now and then, and more likely when that happens; the ball will be deposited in the bleachers for a home run (21 this year). But the trick is all those other times when he lets the hitter get himself out.
Sabathia is a man’s man, who has battled demons and suppressed them with a will, determination, and the love of his family. He’s the go-to guy in the clubhouse along with Brett Gardner and Matt Holliday for the talented, but still impressionable, Baby Bombers. He’s also the guy who doesn’t preach but leads by example.
Not surprisingly, Sabathia’s teammates are thrilled with the prospect of him pitching the “big game”. Here’s Brett Gardner’s take:
Apparently, I have a man-crush on CC Sabathia. But, it’s warranted, and as the cliche goes, where would the Yankees be in 2017 without him?
Sabathia is not likely to shut down the Indians tomorrow night a la Severino and Tanaka before him. He’ll give up two or three runs, and the Yankees offense will need to break through against Corey Kluber, this year’s going away Cy Young winner. They did it once. They’ll just need to do it again.
If you haven’t caught the fever yet, now is as good a time as any to hop on the bandwagon. This Yankees team is special. They are a cohesive and resilient unit. And no one on the team is more resilient than CC Sabathia.
It’s an all hands on deck game for both managers. Girardi and Terry Francona will use every man on the pitching staff if they have to. Both bullpens have been tested, but there is no pitcher on either team, with the exception of Severino on the “can’t use” list. And we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Aroldis Chapman in the game for a 3+ out save if need be.
Place your bets now. Who will emerge as the heroes for the Yankees? I’m going with Sabathia and Chase Headley if he gets a chance to play. Otherwise, on the offense side, Gary Sanchez has something special going on right now, and I look for him to continue with it. And by the way, have you noticed how #24 is getting down and blocking all of those balls in the dirt when a few weeks ago he was on the bench and in Girardi’s doghouse.
These are the 2017 New York Yankees.