Big Lefty Has Never Shied Away From Taking The Ball In A Big Spot, And Bombers Need Him More Than Ever Now

By Sweeny Murti
» More Columns

It would be nice if we all got a moment on Monday to appreciate who CC Sabathia has been as a member of the Yankees.

No, this season isn’t over. He could still pitch again in pinstripes if the Yankees can climb out of this 0-2 hole and reach the World Series. And sure, there’s a chance he comes back next year as a free agent for another season. Maybe with another good, young team that could use his leadership it will be easy to hammer out a contract to bring him back. But at 37, there is no guarantee.

Sabathia will take the mound at Yankee Stadium for a postseason start for the first time since Game 5 of the 2012 ALDS, a winner-take-all affair where the veteran left-hander put the Yankees on his back and delivered a four-hitter. The Bombers beat the Orioles 3-1, as Sabathia struck out nine and threw 121 pitches to clinch the series. This was five days after he went 8 2/3 innings with 120 pitches in the series-opening 7-2 win in Baltimore.

CC Sabathia

Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

That’s good to note as we praise the efforts of Justin Verlander in his 124-pitch masterpiece in Game 2 of this ALCS. Maybe we should also note that two weeks after that Game 5 clincher Sabathia had surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow.

Sabathia will be making his 21st postseason start, and his seventh at Yankee Stadium. The only one of his previous six in the Bronx that the Yankees lost was Game 1 of the 2009 World Series when his seven innings of two-run ball weren’t enough to overcome the domination by the Phillies’ Cliff Lee. Sabathia gave up a total of eight earned runs in five starts that postseason, which you may remember ended with a victory parade.

MOREPalladino: Yankees Must Stop Making Mistakes Around The Plate

There was a time here that it wasn’t all rosy for Sabathia. From 2013-15 he made three trips to the disabled list and one trip to alcohol rehab. He came back strong the last two seasons, finishing with a record of 23-17 and a 3.81 ERA in 57 starts.

And although he didn’t get a win in either of his two starts in this year’s Division Series against the Indians, CC’s two starts against Corey Kluber in his first professional home of Cleveland allowed the Yankees to take this run to the next level, to the ALCS where they must now overcome another 0-2 deficit. There isn’t a better choice for this assignment.

Call him crafty, call him sneaky-fast, call him a gamer … call him whatever you want after 3,434 innings and 54,208 pitches of regular and postseason baseball, over half of them as a Yankee. But remember to appreciate the ace he has been in the past, the leader he is now, and the professional he has been the whole time.

Sabathia may or may not pitch the Yankees deeper into this October, and there seems at least a decent chance he comes back next year. But when he comes off the mound on Monday night remember you’re seeing a guy who, although he hasn’t bagged the same amount of championship hardware as the beloved Andy Pettitte did, is every bit the lion No. 46 was every time he took the ball.

Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN