There’s absolutely no question that New York Yankee ace starter C.C. Sabathia was one of the biggest reasons for his team’s success during the 2010 regular season.
A strong case could even made that with a 21-7 record, a 3.18 ERA, a 1.19 WHIP, 197 strikeouts and just 74 walks in 237.2 regular season innings pitched, and all of the countless times that Sabathia came through for the Yankees when they needed him most from April through September, Sabathia might be as worthy of being a 2010 American League MVP candidate as much as being in the running for this year’s Cy Young award.
But, as great as Sabathia was during the regular season, October has not been his month at all thus far.
Fortunately for Sabathia and the Yankees, the struggles of the Bronx Bombers’ top starter has mattered none, thanks to the Yankees’ ridiculously dangerous lineup and its ability to rally against opposing AL playoff pitching staffs.
It’s not that Sabathia has been completely awful this month. And, it’s not as if Sabathia needs to toss a no-hitter like Roy Halladay’s for Philadelphia or hurl a two-hit, 14-strikeout performance like Tim Lincecum’s for San Francisco in the division series round.
However, in two postseason starts thus far, Sabathia has fallen well short of giving the Yankees what they needed or what they expected of him.
In Game 1 of the Yankees’ American League Division Series, Sabathia got the win against the Minnesota Twins, but only because the Yankee hitters were able to rally not once, but twice, for him.
Through five innings, Sabathia was outdueled by Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano, as Minnesota built a 3-0 lead.
He was let off the hook though – at least, temporarily – when the Yankees finally reached Liriano for four runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Sabathia however, immediately squandered his newly received 4-3 lead in the bottom of the same inning, when he walked three batters, including walking in the tying run.
The Yankees’ then rallied for two more runs in the next inning to a win 6-4, giving Sabathia the lucky victory even though the lefty was already done for the night after a very un-ace-like four runs (three earned) on five hits, while walking three to go along with five strikeouts, and laboring through 112 pitches — of which only 63 (56 percent) were strikes.
That was Round One. Friday night, during Game 1 of the Yankees’ American League Championship Series with the Rangers, in Texas, Sabathia was far worse, and the Yankees’ rally was even better.
This time, Sabathia couldn’t stick around long enough to pick up another fortuitous postseason victory, but the Yankee bats once again helped him avoid a loss.
Sabathia allowed a first-inning three-run homer by Josh Hamilton and a fourth-inning two-run double by Matt Young to trail 5-0. He threw 95 pitches, just 51 (54 percent) for strikes. All five runs were earned, on six hits, as Sabathia struck out only three hitters while walking four.
That underwhelming performance pushed Sabathia’s 2010 postseason ERA to 11.25 (more than 3½ times his regular season ERA this year), and his WHIP to 2.50 (more than twice Sabathia’s 2010 regular season WHIP).
As before though, the Yankees rallied. This time, for a run in the top of the seventh inning and five more in the eighth inning, to win 6-5, and remain undefeated through their first four postseason games this year, even though their ace has pitched poorly enough to lose half of those games.
One theory for Sabathia’s October struggles could be too much rest.
Throughout the regular season, like any pitcher, Sabathia got used to going to the mound usually, every five days. However, Sabathia had seven days off between his final regular season start in Toronto on September 28th, and his ALDS Game 1 start in Minnesota on October 6th. Friday night’s ALCS Game 1 start in Texas then came on eight days of rest.
It would figure that at some point, probably more than once in the ALDS and in a possible World Series appearance, the Yankees will need their ace to return to his regular season form. Then again, Sabathia might continue to get away with being mediocre this October, as long as the Yankee lineup continues it late game heroics.