Left-Hander CC Sabathia will be the Yankees’ starting pitcher Saturday night against the Houston Astros in in Game 7 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
By Randy Miller
HOUSTON — Just a few minutes after it became official that champagne corks would not be popped in the Yankees clubhouse on Friday night at Minute Maid Park, CC Sabathia lumbered into the media room and took a seat front and center.
The Yankees had just blown the first of two chances they’d earned to be a World Series team with a 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros in an entertaining ALCS Game 6 that was close until usually stellar bullpen piece David Robertson made like a BP pitcher allowing four runs while getting nobody out in the eighth.
This loss forces the Yankees into their first Game 7 since one of the darkest days ever at the old Yankee Stadium, the time that the 2004 Boston Red Sox became the first and only Major League ballclub to win a seven-game series after losing the first three.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi planned ahead this Game 7 scenario by lining up his rotation so that his most experienced big-game pitcher would be the starter.
And that’s why Sabathia was ushered in to the press room after the Yankees’ Game 6 loss.
Two questions in …
Usually one to let his pitching do the talking, Sabathia this time opted to send a loud and proud message that wasn’t all that different from Joe Namath guaranteeing the Jets would win Super Bowl III and Mark Messier’s famous “we’ll win tonight” prediction during the Rangers’ 1994 Stanley Cup run.
“We’ll come out tomorrow and play a great game and win tomorrow,” Sabathia said for the world to hear.
You’ve got to love the confidence oozing from the big lefty, who has had a tremendous rebound season at age 37 and is coming off a great outing in a Game 4 ALCS win over the Astros, six shutout innings.
Here’s the question that brought out Sabathia’s brash statement that probably will be hung on Astros clubhouse walls Saturday, if it isn’t there already:
You guys have had four elimination games. Your young guys have responded well. What have you liked most about the way your team plays in these elimination games?
“Just the way we can turn the page,” Sabathia answered. “It’s something that these guys have a gift to do. It’s hard to do, especially for a young team. And they seem to do that every day.”
Sabathia paused, then threw out his guarantee without actually using the G word.
Sabathia’s pretty much done it all as a pitcher and he’s been through a lot in life.
He’s won a Cy Young, a World Series and 237 games. He went to six All-Star Games. He’s had a lot of injuries and nearly drank himself out of baseball.
His 23rd career postseason game and 22nd start will be his first Game 7.
“To be able to have the opportunity to go to the World Series, one game … I’m excited,” Sabathia said.
So are his teammates.
They remember Sabathia starting the Yankees’ last elimination game, a Game 5 Division Series win in Cleveland 10 days ago. Sabathia didn’t qualify to be the winning pitcher because Girardi had a quick hook, but this 4 1/3-inning, two-run, nine-strikeout, no-walks outing was a good one.
“Any time we have a big situation and we need someone to go in there and have a quality start, CC’s been our guy for us,” right fielder Aaron Judge said after Game 6. “There’s nobody else we’d want on the mound for us.”
Now it’s up to Sabathia , who is 10-4 with a 4.24 ERA in the playoffs, to put up or shut up.
The Jets upset the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III in January 1969 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and Namath was named MVP.
The Rangers staved off elimination by beating the Devils in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals after Messier said they would, then they went on to win Game 7 and then knock off the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final for their first title since 1940.
Sabathia will be in Broadway Joe and Messier’s company if his prediction comes true.
“It’s been a tough road, not being in the playoffs for a long time, and going through my personal things,” Sabathia said. “It will feel good to get out there (Saturday) and have an opportunity to try to pitch this team to the World Series.”