With their postseason again on the line, the Yankees turn to CC Sabathia on Monday night.
No, the stakes aren’t quite as high as they were Wednesday night in Cleveland, when it was a win-or-go-home situation, but the Yankees can all but start planning their offseasons if they lose to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
After the Yankees lost a pair of 2-1 decisions in Houston, the series shifts to Yankee Stadium, where Sabathia, 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA this season, will take on Astros righthander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62).
“It’s a good team we’re playing, but I feel like we’ve been right there in both games,” Sabathia said Sunday afternoon at the Stadium. “Getting beat 2-1 [both games] . . . I think we’re right there. A couple things go our way, we could easily be up 2-0.”
Not that you’d know the Yankees trail 0-2, Sabathia said.
A strength of the club all season, he said, has been its ability to not get too high or too low, regardless of the circumstances. It was that way after a crushing 13-inning loss to the Indians in Game 2 of the American League Division Series and was that way after Saturday’s walk-off loss.
“This team, the mood never changes with this team. We’re always the same,” Sabathia said, later using “even-keeled” to describe his teammates. “After the game yesterday wasn’t any different than it always is. It’s just how we’ve been. I look for us to come out tomorrow and play well.”
Sabathia, in his 17th big-league season, said that isn’t always the case with teams that have as many young players as the Yankees do.
“I don’t know if it’s maturity or just being dumb,” he said with a smile. “But the team is really good at doing that [staying grounded] for a young team.”
Though he didn’t make it through five innings in his two previous postseason starts, Sabathia twice outpitched Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. In Wednesday’s 3-2 victory, Sabathia retired 13 of the first 14 he faced, striking out nine in 4 1⁄3 innings before Joe Girardi called on the bullpen.
Sabathia — once a workhorse in the mold of Justin Verlander, who threw 124 pitches in a complete-game effort for the Astros on Saturday — is just fine turning things over to relievers whenever they’re called on.
“Our bullpen is unbelievable,” he said. “Top to bottom, we have, I think, the best in the game. It just gives you confidence to go out and do whatever you can and leave it all out there and let those guys come out and clean up the mess.”
Not that there have been many this season for Sabathia, especially after losses. Though he doesn’t make much of it, he went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in games following a Yankees defeat.
“It’s just one of those stats of the year,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t do anything different after a win or a loss. Just one of those things.”
The thing facing the Yankees now is a likely insurmountable deficit if they lose Game 3. But playing at the Stadium, where they posted the best home record in the American League (51-30) and are 3-0 this postseason, gives them confidence that a run similar to the one in the Division Series could be in the offing.
“We’ve got a whole lot of baseball left to play,” Brett Gardner said. “It’s a seven-game series and we’re going back home. We’ve played really, really well at home, especially recently. We haven’t lost a playoff game there yet, so hopefully we keep that streak going.”