(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
With all due respect to Matt Kemp, beast mode resides in the Bronx and his name is CC Sabathia. Yesterday evening, the big left hander not only beat down the Baltimore Orioles’ offense, but also dragged his own team’s struggling hitters across the finish line in the ALDS.
In game one of the series, Sabathia lived up to his billing as an ace by holding the Orioles to two runs over 8 2/3 innings, allowing the Yankees to rally for a 7-2 victory in the ninth. Heading into game five, Joe Girardi would have gladly signed up for more of the same, but the lefty was even better. For the first seven innings, Sabathia dominated the Orioles lineup, allowing only one hit, and then, when Baltimoreloaded the bases in the eighth, he slammed the door by escaping the jam after only one run had scored. In another season, Sabathia’s job would have been done, but with Mariano Rivera a spectator on the bench and Rafael Soriano coming off a two-inning stint the night before, the Yankees’ ace also took on the role of closer and worked a one-two-three ninth. Ballgame over. American League Division Series over.
Yankees’ Top-15 Postseason Game Scores
By going the distance, Sabathia became the first Yankees’ pitcher to throw a postseason complete game since Roger Clemens one-hit the Mariners in game 4 of the 2000 ALCS. In addition, Sabathia’s game score of 82 was the highest since Clemens beat the Mets in game two of the Subway Series as well as the 12th best mark in franchise history. Sabathia’s gem was also only the third complete game by a Yankee in sudden death and first since Ralph Terry closed out the 1962 World Series. Finally, the left hander’s 17 2/3 innings were the most by any Yankee pitcher in a five-game postseason series, and his two victories pushed the Bronx Bombers’ record to 10-2 in postseason games he has started.
Top-15 Postseason Game Scores in Sudden Death
The only negative thing about Sabathia’s performance against the Orioles was that the Yankees had to use him in the first place. Because of the condensed postseason schedule, which affords no off day between the first two rounds, Sabathia won’t be available to pitch on full rest until game four of the ALCS, meaning the lefty, who has thrown 120 pitches in consecutive starts, would have to go on three days rest in order to pitch twice in the series.
In the recent past, losing Sabathia until the middle of the next round would be a debilitating blow, but this year, the Yankees’ rotation has much more depth. In fact, while Sabathia was making history on his own, the Yankees’ staff as a whole was doing the same. In 51 innings, the most for the franchise in a five-game series, the starters and bullpen combined for a 1.76 ERA, the 11 lowest rate recorded in the team’s 72 postseason series.
Can the Yankees’ pitching staff be just as stingy in the ALCS? Will they need to be? Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander will have a lot to say about those questions, but ultimately, it’s the Yankees offense that needs to answer the bell. The pitching staff has proven it can carry the load, but Joe Girardi needs his lineup to starting pulling its weight. Sabathia may be a beast, but there’s a limit to the burden that even his broad shoulders can carry.