CC Sabathia managed to avoid taking any losses during the Yankees’ all too brief postseason runs in 2010 and 2011, but he couldn’t sidestep the criticism The game’s highest-paid pitcher, he was far from an ace in amassing a 5.84 ERA in 24 2/3 innings the last two Octobers.
Sabathia’s 2012 postseason got off to a much better start Sunday, as he limited the Orioles to two runs in 8 2/3 innings to pick up a win in Game 1 of the ALDS. It was the first time since the 2009 World Series that Sabathia completed seven innings in a postseason start.
Sabathia was stellar when the Yankees won the World Series in his first year with the team, going 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA in five starts. Still, Yankee fans have short memories, and his more recent outings in series losses to the Rangers and Tigers left them cold. He gave up six runs and walked eight in 8 2/3 innings in last year’s ALDS defeat.
For his career, Sabathia is now 8-4 in the postseason, albeit with a mediocre 4.60 ERA. He came within one out tonight of what would have been his first postseason complete game in 16 tries.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.