(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
The Yankees should go with CC Sabathia in the Wild Card game, as he has come on strong in September, becoming their ol’ reliable down the stretch.
When the Yankees lost Nathan Eovaldi for what turned out to be the season due to shoulder inflammation on September 8, it would be interesting who would step up. Eovaldi was 14-3 at the time,and had all but taken the role of being the Yankees ace.
The obvious two to step up and fill the void were guys who were aces in the near past, Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka.
Sabathis had a dreadful start to the season, going 2-7 with a 5.67 ERA at the end of May. He steadied in June and July, but did not improve all that much, as he was allowing around five runs in five innings per outing.
The game that turned Sabathia’s season was against Boston on August 6, when he allowed one run on three hits in six innings and made a big statement by striking out David Ortiz with the bases loaded.
In August, Sabathia had three no decisions, with no wins and a loss, but his ERA for the month was 3.80, as he allowed just nine runs in 21 innings.
September started with a tough outing against Baltimore, in which he went just 4 2/3 innings, but he allowed just a run on three hits.
He then began the run that will earn him his spot in the playoffs. On September 14, he threw 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits, at Tampa Bay.
Sabathia’s next start was on the 20th against the Mets in the Subway Series finale. Aside from giving up a run in the first he was masterful. He went six innings, and allowed one run on five hits, with seven strikeouts.
That night, he definitely looked like the 2009 vintage of CC against the tough Mets lineup, as he knew how to mix it up and keep them off balance.
He faced another lineup with some pop, the White Sox, at The Stadium on the 25th.He gave up two homers, the first ones he allowed in four starts, and allowed four runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. This was more typical of how he was in the first couple of months, but he hung in there and gave the Yankees a chance to win the game. Sabathia’s ERA for September is 2.25.
Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia on Wednesday afternoon, “CC expects a lot from himself and is used to being the top of the rotation stopper type guy, has a lot of pride.”
Girardi said of Sabathia and the postseason, “I’m sure he’s really looking forward to it. I think he’s loved his time here and I think he’s loves his time in the postseason, and what he’s meant to clubs in the postseason.”
Tanaka defnitely rose to the occasion with Eovaldi out, but the hamstring injury he suffered running the bases against the Mets has taken away some of his pop.
For the season, in which he battled elbow issues early on, he is 12-7 with a 3.51 ERA. In September, he pitched very well, allowing just a run in eight innings against Baltimore on the 8th, then seven innings of shutout ball against Toronto five days later.
He pitched the opener of the series against the Mets on the 18th, and it turned out he strained his right hamstring while trying to beat out a bunt attempt in the second inning. He gave up a home run to Lucas Duda in the bottom half of that inning, and then one to Daniel Murphy later on.
‘Tanaka missed his next scheduled start against Toronto, and took the mound for the first time in 12 days against Boston on Wednesday night. He started the game by striking out Mookie Betts, and then getting Dustin Pedroia to ground out. He then gave up a single to Xander Bogaerts and walked David Ortiz before giving up a mammoth three-run home run to Travis Shaw. The pitch Shaw hit was an off-speed pitch that Tanaka hung up in the zone.
It is assumed Tanaka will be the wild card game starter, but if Girardi wants the sure thing for what essentially is an elimination game, go with CC. They can’t risk Tanaka giving up a crooked number in the first inning.
Rookie Luis Severino has been the surprise down the stretch and could be a candidate for the Wild Card game or certainly a spot in the playoff rotation. He has gone 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA in his 10 starts, seven of which have been “quality starts,” since he was called up on August 5.
The two disappointments have been their hard-throwing right-handers Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova.
Pineda has had a good season, with a 12-9 record, but his ERA has been a tad high, at 4.24. His start on Tuesday night was a real eye-opener, as he allowed six runs in the first inning to the Red Sox.
This was such a shocking outing, that any thought of starting him in the Wild Card game, let alone the playoffs, can certainly be questioned. The plus for Pineda is that, in his two prior starts, he pitched 5 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the Mets, followed by allowing one run in six innings against Chicago.
Nova has had a very up-and-down September to go along with a 6-10 season. The low point came in the second game of a doubleheader on the 12th, when he last just 1 2/3 innings, and allowed six runs on seven hits. H was pulled from the rotation until he had to take Tanaka’s spot in Toronto on the 23rd, and he did well, allowing a run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Nova then had a tough outing against Boston on Monday, in which he gave up four runs on seven hits in seven innings. It was one of those games that, even though he did not allow a run through the first five, Boston was threatening in each inning. Boston broke through when David Shaw hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. got one of his own an inning later.
The Red Sox turned out to be a good test for the Yankees, as they are playing their best baseball of the season, and are highly motivated to impress their new team president, Dave Dombrowski. As long as David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are there, they will have a tough lineup.
The biggest advantage Sabathia has over the other four members of the Yankees starting rotation is experience. He has started 18 postseason games, with tremendous success, while nobody else has made a playoff start in their careers.