In the middle of September, in the middle of a Yankees’ post-season dash that was much tenser than they ever expected, there were some doubts about CC Sabathia. The Yankees need Sabathia to be a certainty, but he had lost four straight starts, he had lost velocity on his fastball and there had to be a loss of confidence in Yankeeland.
Sabathia is a proud pitcher, a pitcher who is confident enough to say when he should and could dominate hitters. Across Sabathia’s last three regular season starts, that dominant pitcher returned. He went 2-0 with a gaudy 1.50 earned run average, minimizing the doubts with a rejuvenated fastball, with better location and with an effectiveness that the Yankees were desperate to see again.
“It was vintage CC,” Manager Joe Girardi said.
As the Yankees prepared to play the Orioles in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, they were relieved that Sabathia had resurrected himself in his last 24 innings. There are a multitude of things that must unfold for the Yankees to win 11 more games and capture a World Series title. Getting powerful starts from Sabathia is one of the primary items on that post-season list. A solid Sabathia will make everything else unfold more smoothly for the Yankees.
When General Manager Brian Cashman has discussed Sabathia, he has stressed how vital it is to have a number 1 starter who can dominate. Cashman wants to be able to analyze the first game of a post-season series and believe that his ace will prevail. While no pitcher is automatic, Cashman noted that there are certain elite pitchers that offer their teams that feeling of ultimate confidence.
Did Sabathia achieve enough to give the Yankees that comfortable feeling about him again? He whiffed 28 batters in his last three starts, another sign of dominance. But Sabathia also has an unsightly 5.84 E.R.A. in his last two post-seasons, which is the opposite of dominance. The Yankees need Sabathia to be their security blanket, their sure thing, their certainty. If he is, their path to a possible title will be smoother.