CC Sabathia doesn’t intend for Tuesday night’s outing to be the last game of his career.
He intends to fend off a potent Red Sox lineup, using all of the craftiness and the considerable tools he’s culled from his long career. He intends to continue to be a force for the Yankees during what he hopes is a long playoff run. And he fully intends to pick up his cleats again come February, whether that be with the Yankees or elsewhere.
Sabathia will take the mound in ALDS Game 4 a picture of defiance. At 38, he’s defying his age and his balky right knee, and doing it against a lineup that has made mincemeat of pitchers in their prime. He probably won’t watch any video, he said. He probably won’t look at a scouting report. He probably knows more than either, anyway.
“I like to just go off of my own knowledge,” he said ahead of what will be his 24th playoff appearance. “I know everybody’s different, but I know these guys, and I’ve faced them so much. I don’t think anything in the scouting report is going to tell me anything that I don’t know about these guys. I don’t really watch any video or anything. I just go off of what I know.”
Aaron Boone is putting considerable faith in Sabathia. Even before Game 3, he said he will pitch him regardless of whether the Yankees are facing elimination.
Sabathia had an uneven year, going 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA, and struggled with a few rough outings in September, when he said he lost his cutter.
He got it back in his regular-season finale, pitching five innings of one-hit ball against the Rays. That’s the guy Boone thinks he’s going to get Tuesday night, and one that led the manager to pick Sabathia over J.A. Happ, who threw only 44 pitches against the Red Sox in Game 1 and would have pitched on three days’ rest. Happ’s outing that night didn’t inspire confidence, but he’s otherwise been the Yankees’ best pitcher in the second half and historically has dominated the Red Sox.
“We feel like CC physically is in a good place right now coming off a really good start at the end of the year,” Boone said. “I feel like his knee is in a good place and feel like he’s been pretty good when we’ve been able to give him that rest. So we feel like he’s lined up and ready to go for tomorrow. We’ll feel good about giving him the ball.”
And the surgically repaired knee is a key. Sabathia said earlier in the year that he’d toy with the idea of retirement, but now it’s clear he feels good enough that he thinks he can keep going. His contract with the Yankees is up this season, but “I’ll play anywhere,” he said. “I still want to play. I still want to pitch. I definitely can help and still get guys out. So whoever needs me.”
Boone shares his confidence. “There’s no question, to me, that he can pitch for more than just next year if he wants to, as long as his knee holds up,” he said. “As long as his knee’s healthy, I think he can be a successful pitcher for actually many more years if he really wants to. I think he’s still that good and capable.”
Boone will demonstrate that Tuesday when he hands Sabathia the keys to Game 4.
CC Sabathia’s career numbers vs. the Red Sox:
Sabathia’s postseason numbers:
IP 126 1/3