Sabathia: I just wanted to give us chance to win

CC Sabathia pumps his fist after striking out

CC Sabathia pumps his fist after striking out Mitch Moreland to end the 6th inning as the Yankees host the Rangers in game 5 of the ALCS on October 20, 2010. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams

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If there's anyone inside the Yankees clubhouse who understands a three games-to-one deficit in a best-of-seven series is far from insurmountable, it's CC Sabathia.

Three years ago the lefthander was with the Cleveland Indians when they were one win away from the World Series, leading the Boston Red Sox by the same advantage.

But Sabathia's Indians never won again. The Red Sox won three straight games - a stretch that began with a win over Sabathia - and now the Yankees are trying to do the same thing to the Texas Rangers.

And after a 7-2 victory in ALCS Game 5 Wednesday, the Yankees are one-third of the way there, thanks in large part to their ace. Facing elimination, Sabathia held the Rangers to two runs in six innings, doing his part to ensure the Yankees remain alive in this series.

"I just felt like I wanted to keep them in it and give us a chance to win," Sabathia said. "The first two starts of the postseason I just felt like I wasn't able to do that."

It was far from Sabathia's best outing; he allowed 11 hits and pitched with baserunners on in every inning. But the Rangers were 3-for-15 in those situations, a testament to Sabathia's ability to limit the damage.

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"That's why he's considered one of the best pitchers in the game," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "They bend, they don't break. Just when we thought we would be able to put something across he made pitches like he did when he had to."

Even though Sabathia took the mound with the responsibility of keeping the Yankees' season alive, he said he wasn't any more nervous than a typical game. His teammates noticed his easygoing demeanor before the game in the clubhouse.

"That's one of the best things about CC," Jorge Posada said. "He doesn't look like he's pitching that day. He sits down on the couch, watching TV and really just talking to everybody."

But had he been somewhat anxious, it certainly would have been understandable considering the rocky road that he's had this postseason. Sabathia was coming off two uneven starts he attributed to the unusually long time off he had before each start.

After allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings in the ALDS opener against the Twins on seven days' rest, he was idle for eight days before the ALCS opener in Texas. Then he allowed five runs and six hits and walked four in four innings.

Sabathia was back on his normal four days' rest for Game 5, and he said he felt the difference. "I was able to make some pitches when I got in trouble," he said.

And none were bigger than in the sixth, when he allowed only one run after the Rangers loaded the bases with one out. After Matt Treanor's groundout drove in a run to cut the lead to 6-2, Sabathia stranded two in scoring position by striking out Mitch Moreland. "I just wanted to fight," Sabathia said, "no matter what the situation was."

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