The Yankees got back in the ALCS with a 8-1 win over the Astros on Monday night.
CC Sabathia was the winner, pitching six shutout innings, giving up three hits, walking four and striking out five.
It was the first scoreless postseason outing for Sabathia, who was making the 22nd postseason start of his career.
“It’s weird,” Sabathia said. “Me being 37, smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout. But yeah, like I said, just keep riding it, trying to throw strikes and being aggressive.”
His manager acknowledged that the veteran lefty has been consistently solid, even if this was the first shutout.
“He’s pitched really well all playoff,” Joe Girardi said. “And really, all season long when his knee has felt well. So I’m not surprised what he did tonight. We talked about it, we wanted him on the mound tonight. We thought we had the right guy on the mound tonight. Again, six innings, just an outstanding effort. Couldn’t ask for anything more.”
It was a vintage performance for the man who has been a stopper all year long. Including the postseason, CC is 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts following a Yankees loss.
“He attacks hitters,” Aaron Judge said after the game. “He attacks the zone. Puts it where he wants to. He’s not the same he was years ago. He’s working the corners well, working speeds, keeping guys off balance.”
Sabathia went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA during the 2017 regular season. Now in his 17th season in the majors, Sabathia worked 148.2 innings this season, not quite the workhorse numbers he put up in his prime, but still effective.
“I think he understands what his role is,” Girardi said before Game 3. “He still doesn’t like when I take him out.
He still doesn’t. But I think he’s more understanding that when we think about CC, it’s about also being able to make the next start and the next start, where if you wear him down and if you overuse him you could have some issues. So he understands, give us five or six good innings, whatever you can give us, we’ll take it. If your pitch count is lower, and you can give us seven, do it. He’s going to give us everything he’s got.”
The competitive spirit, and an 8-0 lead, helped Sabathia finish the top of the sixth inning after Girardi went to the mound. “I just said I wanted to get this guy,” Sabathia said. “I was feeling pretty good. And I just wanted to make that last pitch and try to save as many people in the bullpen as possible. We know that’s the strength of our team. As starters you want to go as long as possible and get those guys as much rest as possible.”
Todd Frazier, who broke a scoreless tie with a three-run homer, spoke about seeing Sabathia as an opponent. “I got a couple of hits off him,” Frazier said. “When he does make a mistake, which is rare, you’ve got to take care of it. And he’s a bulldog. It’s one of those things. Look at the size of him. And he looks like a bear out there just on the mound, just ready to pounce on somebody. He has that going for him. And he hits his spots.”
Sabathia was the winning pitcher in Game 5 of the 2010 ALCS, the last time the Yankees won an LCS game before Monday night. Texas was looking to clinch the first pennant in franchise history when Sabathia took the mound that afternoon and gave up two earned runs over six innings despite giving up 11 hits. Sabathia threw 112 pitches in that game. The Yankees won 7-2, their last win of 2010.
Future Marlins owner Derek Jeter was leading off and playing at short. Fox Sports broadcaster Nick Swisher was in right field and scored two runs. Current Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano collected a hit, run and RBI. Fox Sports announcer Alex Rodriguez batted cleanup and scored a run. Current Yankees assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames was the designated hitter. Lance Berkman scored a run, and was the first baseman in the absence if an injured Mark Teixeira. Jorge Posada scored a run and collected two hits. Current Dodger Curtis Granderson had a team-highs with three hits and two RBI. Brett Gardner, New York’s leadoff hitter on Monday, was batting ninth on that day.
Kerry Wood, in his short time as a Yankee, pitched two shutout innings. And Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to keep the season alive.
The 2010 season had been one of the best for Sabathia. He won a career-high 21 games, made a league-high 34 starts, and pitched 237.2 innings for Joe Girardi. The southpaw finished third in the American League Cy Young voting.
Many players have come and gone since then. Only Sabathia and Gardner remain with uninterrupted tenures. David Robertson left for the White Sox but returned via a July trade. Now Sabathia has found a different way of pitching, after several injury-plagued seasons. And there’s still the competitive nature that comes out, like when he apparently screamed at Josh Reddick at the end of an inning. “That was just me being me, man,” a laughing Sabathia said.