By Jon Lane
Reputations in New York are made during crunch time. This is why many
people are demanding Alex Rodriguez, a three-time MVP, to show them
something. It’s also the biggest reason why the Yankees were hell-bent
on signing CC Sabathia.
This is the time of year when Sabathia demands the baseball and once he
gets it, he’s must-see television. While others wilt under the hot
August nights, September spotlight and Red October, Sabathia has proven
he’s capable of carrying an entire team – a whole franchise – on his
He’s doing it again. Thursday night in Seattle, Sabathia allowed a run
on three hits in eight innings with 10 strikeouts – at the time of year
when it’s critical not to overwork a bullpen, especially with Sergio
Mitre and Chad Gaudin starting this weekend. Sabathia is 5-1 with a
2.98 ERA in his last six games and has surrendered only two earned runs
while whiffing 19 over his previous 15 2/3 innings.
I wrote in March that the fate of the 2009 Yankees rests on Sabathia.
We’ve seen this season that everyone from Sabathia to A.J. Burnett,
from Melky Cabrera to Ramiro Pena to Francisco Cervelli, has
contributed greatly. The difference is that if the season is down to an
elimination game, it won’t be Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright or Javier
Vazquez on the mound. Sabathia’s 19 wins and 209 strikeouts in 241
innings pitched won him a Cy Young Award in 2007 and the way he carried
the Brewers to the postseason the following year was more than enough
to convince the Yankees he’ll handle New York in the biggest of spots.
“Check his track record, bro,” said Nick Swisher in April. “That’s it. Check his track record.”
? Mere hours after the Yankees used five relievers and won a 15-inning
classic over the Red Sox, Sabathia allowed two hits, walked two and
struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings, tying his season high of 123 pitches,
and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
? He’s 31-9 career with a 3.14 ERA lifetime in August, 18-2 in the last
four years and lined up to start the finale of Yankees-Red Sox a week
from Sunday in Boston.
? Those numbers in Milwaukee following his trade from Cleveland: 11-2
with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts, his last four coming on three days’ rest.
The day the Brewers clinched a postseason berth, Sabathia tossed his
10th complete game, the most in one season since Randy Johnson threw 12
There’s one big blemish: He’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five postseason
starts, the last a Game 2 NLDS loss to the Phillies when he was raked
for five runs in 3 2/3 innings. That was his fourth on three days’
rest, which won’t happen with the Yankees. There’s no need to carry
this team, not with an MVP candidate (Mark Teixeira) an ace riding
shotgun (Burnett) and one of October’s best performers (Andy Pettitte),
but Sabathia will do it because he wants to. It’s one of two missing
pieces of his baseball life.