(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
There is no doubt that CC Sabathia is a catalyst of the New York Yankees pitching rotation. For two years it has not been Sabathia like on the mound and when CC has it, well so do the Yankees. Thursday night in the Bronx it was the old CC for six innings and the velocity on a fastball that took a hiatus was back in form.
The Yankees behind Sabathia, who did not factor in the decision, on a go-ahead solo home run from Jacoby Ellsbury in the eighth inning went on to take the rubber game of three-game series over the Boston Red Sox 2-1.
This was not a rivalry that once was the past three nights at Yankee Stadium of Yankees-Red Sox. Boston is the last place team and the Yankees, the first place team with their eyes on returning to the postseason for the first time in two years. And for the Yankees to continue their quest and go deep into October, a healthy and good Sabathia on the mound is vital.
“I think this means a lot,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Sabathia who struck out eight and walked three. One earned run and three hits was also something that resembled the old Sabathia who has had a share of issues with his knees over the past two years.
Girardi added, “This is a guy that’s been through this a lot, overcome a lot, and understands the magnitude of the game at this time of year. I think it meant a lot to him.”
More so, it means a lot to the Yankees who need a healthy Sabathia down the stretch. Wednesday night the rookie Luis Severino, in his first big league start, reinforced the pitching rotation that has had any number of issues from injuries to being inconsistent. Sabathia has been that up and down righthander with a lot of question marks and there was speculation, even with a multi million dollar contract, that Sabathia may have been headed to the bullpen to work on his mechanics.
Girardi went as far to say, that the bullpen for Sabathia was never in question. It was always getting the 35-year old veteran, who is the active leading pitcher in strikeouts and complete games, back to form. And how important is Sabathia for the stretch run?
The career numbers for August and September are a combined 81-34. What manager and team would not want to see that return? or for that matter, Sabathia, who had been considered an ace of the Yankees staff until his misfortunes, would like to see himself back in that category.
The ERA has been one of the worst in baseball the last two years. And the last two starts, Sabathia gave up 10-runs, including an early exit last week in the hot Texas weather elements where Sabathia suffered from dehydration. So there was lots to prove in the Bronx Thursday night.
And with the second place Toronto Blue Jays coming to the Bronx Friday night for three games, it was important for Sabathia to prove that he is not done and that the velocity on his fastball was also back to form. The fastball was consistent and clocked at 94.
“Obviously I was fired up and I think that was just my passion coming out,” he said. “You know it’s a fine line with me, so I have to be careful. But it worked out for me tonight.”
Said Girardi about Sabathia’s velocity and how it helped his other pitches, “It definitely helped. “Whenever you have more arm speed, I think it helps the rest of your stuff as well.”
The velocity was seen more with bases loaded in the fifth inning. Sabathia unloaded a 94-mile fastball past David Ortiz that ended the inning that could have broke the game open for the Red Sox. The pitches prior to that were two sliders, and the velocity there had Ortiz fooled.
And he is aware that the strikeouts were coming, in what was his finest outing of the season. “I was just looking at the swings,” Sabathia said. “When I’m getting swings and misses on fastballs up like that it feels pretty good.”
The Red Sox got one hit in the first four innings off Sabathia. That was a sign this could be a turnaround game for him. Girardi made reference to previous starts where he has made pitches this season and had some good starts. But the difference was evident this time because the velocity was up ,and Sabathia, third in the American League in home runs allowed with 24, did not give up one to Ortiz or the Red Sox.
Yes the Ellsbury home run was the difference in the Yankees win, Since his return from the disabled list on July 7th, Ellsbury was 20 for his last 97. Sabathia did his part until the Yankees able bullpen took over, and now the Yankees prepare for an improved Toronto Blue Jays team that can also score a lot of runs, the first of 12 games remaining between the top two teams in the Al East.
The Yankees are 8-1 in their past nine series with this win over Boston, and Sabathia is confident more will come out of this latest start. Girardi is ready for Toronto, and after that Sabathia is scheduled to get the ball again next week in Cleveland.
Girardi hopes to see the consistency in the next start. More importantly when CC has it going,the Yankees are that much better in the pitching department.
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