Had the Twins won last night to force a Game 4 in the ALDS, CC Sabathia would have been on the mound this evening in an effort to bring the Yanks to the League Championship Series. Instead, Andy Pettitte and the Yanks’ bats wrapped up the series in Minnesota, and the Yankees have a week off in which they can set their rotation.
Although the Yanks have not made an announcement yet, it is all but official that CC Sabathia will start Game 1 of the ALCS. The big lefty will take the ball against the Angels on Friday, nine days after facing the Twins in Game 1 of the division series. The long layoff may mean that Sabathia is too fresh, but that’s a risk I’m happy to take.
Last week, Sabathia had a pretty good ALDS start. His final line — 6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K — earned him a postseason win, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For the first three innings, Sabathia labored. He needed a Jobaian 64 pitches to record nine outs and did not have his best fastball. Rather, he and Jorge Posada came up with a game plan that relied on change-ups and sliders instead. It worked as he needed just 49 pitches to record the last 12 outs.
In a sense, Sabathia is the perfect pitcher to face the Angels. Most important for a series against the Angels is the fact that Sabathia simply doesn’t issue many walks. To win against the Angels, it is important to avoid giving them free bases. As the team demonstrated against the Red Sox this week, they will capitalize against pitchers who give them walks. Although the Twins did not score much against A.J. Burnett and the Yanks during a Game 2 that featured no 1-2-3 innings, the Angels will not let the Yanks off the hook that easily.
Furthermore, as a lefty, Sabathia can cut down on the Angels’ running game. Not as sneaky with the pick-off move as Andy Pettitte is, Sabathia can try to keep Bobby Abreu and Chone Figgins, Anaheim’s two biggest base-stealing threats, closer to first.
With the advantages, Sabathia is primed to face the Angels at least twice and maybe three times. If the Yankees opt to take advantage of the extra day off during the season to go with three starters, Sabathia could pitch Game 1 on Friday, Game 4 on three days’ rest and Game 7 on full rest. Who needs a fourth starter?
Yet, despite this profile, the Angels, a right-hand hitting team, have given Sabathia trouble this year. He allowed four earned runs in 6.2 innings on May 2nd and five earned runs in 6.2 innings on July 12. In fact, the Angels were one of only two teams to beat CC twice this season. Still, there is no one I would rather see on the mound come Friday. With the K pitch working, Sabathia can neutralize the Angels. As Joe wrote earlier today, the Yanks’ good pitching will determine the extent of their October success. In the ALCS, as CC goes, so go the Yankees.