The Yankees ran into a buzz saw last night, never getting off the ground while striking out fourteen times. It won’t get any easier tonight when they face this year’s projected Cy Young winner. But a sly old veteran, who’s been here before, takes the mound to bring the series back to New York even.
When Yankees manager, Joe Girardi drew up his rotation for the ALDS series against the Indians, he called on his veteran workhorse, CC Sabathia, to make the start over Masahiro Tanaka. At the time, this raised a few eyebrows, but if Yankees fans have any doubts about Sabathia’s fortitude and ability in these situations, just take a look at the box score tomorrow morning.
So far in the playoffs, the Yankees have received two clunkers from their top two starters. Luis Severino was unable to get out of the first inning again the Twins, and last night, Sonny Gray was pulled in the top of the fourth inning after throwing a gazillion pitches, most of which were well out of the strike zone or dead center in the zone.
It was not what the Yankees expected from either pitcher. The bullpen and eight runs bailed out Severino in the Wild Card game, but it was not the same result when the Bombers matched up against “Drone Man,” Trevor Bauer last night. Three walks and three hits were all the Yankees could manage against Bauer’s curveball that crossed the zone all night long and sending Aaron Judge to bed with a blazing headache and four strikeouts.
Tonight, the Yankees draw Corey Kluber, who will be pounding the zone with 95 mph fastballs and a tantalizing slider just off the plate the Yankees must not swing at, or the result will be the same.
The difference tonight for the Yankees, though, is Sabathia. Now a finesse pitcher who used to pitch like Kluber, Sabathia has mastered the art of pitching and recording outs.
Watch the old man work
Sabathia may not give the Yankees all the length they need, but if he keeps the Indians in tow for five innings and the Yankees can push across a couple or three runs on Kluber, the series is destined to head back to Yankee Stadium tied at 1-1 with the prospect of Severino make the home start in the swing game.
Sabathia knows and understands his time in baseball is tenuous. And that is why he’s the right man in the right place at the right time. He explains:
Sabathia’s presence on the mound tonight is just desserts for Girardi, who knows what it takes to win in the playoffs with the 25 men on his roster. The major components in the bullpen, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman will be there in full force and on full rest tonight, and it’s just a matter of who Girardi calls on when to get the job done.
Kluber is a battler when he pitches and it’s likely to be the kind of game where the bottom of the order provides the sparks while Kluber doesn’t let an Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez beat him.
But the one thing to watch tonight is how Sabathia takes control of his game and makes the call by Girardi to schedule him for this all-important start a mark of genius.