Friday, October 6, 2017

Yankees set to lean on CC Sabathia in ALDS Game 2

Photo credit: Keith Allison
The Yankees are building a youthful core, but if they’re going to stick with the Indians in the American League Division Series, they will need a sterling Game 2 performance from the roster’s elder statesman, CC Sabathia.

The Yankees offense was stifled by Indians’ pitching in Game 1, something that might be an issue in Game 2 with Cleveland’s ace and Cy Young favorite, Corey Kluber, on the mound. It will be up to Sabathia to stick with Kluber. If the 2017 regular season is any indication of what’s to come, the 37-year-old left-hander is the pitcher the Yankees want on the mound.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes Sabathia is the right pitcher under difficult circumstances.

“This has been a guy that we’ve relied on heavily after losses this year,” Girardi told the media after the Game 1 loss. "He's been in a ton of these games, and you know that there's no situation that is too big for CC.”

In 10 starts after a Yankees’ loss in 2017, Sabathia is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. That’s the definition of a stopper, something the Yankees sorely need Friday afternoon. Sabathia on the hill goes beyond the success he’s had this season after a Yankees’ defeat.

Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA in the regular season) has carried teams to the postseason and through it in the past. Sabathia has appeared in 19 postseason games (18 starts), going 9-5 with a 4.53 ERA. The ERA might not bring much confidence, but there are several postseason outings in which Sabathia has dominated his opponents, including five starts in the 2009 postseason (36 1/3 IP, 1.98 ERA) and two starts in the 2012 ALDS (17 2/3 IP, 1.52 ERA).

Arguably the biggest factor for Sabathia in Game 2 is that vast postseason history and translating it to a singular game in front of him. As we saw 23-year-old Luis Severino struggle in his first career postseason start in the AL Wild Card Game, nerves can take a toll on an inexperienced pitcher.

Sabathia’s experience level — been there, done that — will allow him to step onto the Progressive Field mound with plenty to reference and likely a certain calm that can only come with knowledge of what lay ahead. Sabathia should be able to drown out the hometown noise, and concentrate on the task at hand, putting up zeroes to allow the Yankees offense time to manufacture runs off Kluber.

The Yankees will not be eliminated with a loss Friday, but it will be extremely difficult to come back from 0-2 down deficit against a team that won 102 games in the regular season. In order to “steal” a win, the Yankees youth will lean on Sabathia, their grizzled veteran, to carry them back home evened up in the series.