HOUSTON — CC Sabathia is built for this. For Game 5s, Game 7s, whatever the deciding game of a playoff series is, the Yankees are glad they have Sabathia ready to go.
The 37-year-old lefthander will take the ball Saturday night in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Astros at Minute Maid Park — just as he did in Game 5 of the Division Series in Cleveland, which the Yankees won, 5-2.
The Yankees are 4-0 when facing elimination this postseason, including ALDS Game 5. Sabathia allowed two runs in 4 2⁄3 innings. He didn’t personally get the win, but the team advanced, and that’s all he’s looking for this time.
“It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “To be able to have the opportunity to go to the World Series. One game. I’m excited.”
The Astros forced a Game 7 with Friday night’s 7-1 victory. After the game, the Astros announced that right hander Charlie Morton will oppose Sabathia. That was the matchup in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium. With the Yankees trailing 2-0 in the series, Sabathia threw six shutout innings (and got the win that time) in an 8-1 victory.
The Yankees clubbed Morton for seven runs in 3 2⁄3 innings. Chances are Astros manager A.J. Hinch will have Game 4 starter Lance McCullers Jr. and Game 5 starter Dallas Keuchel in his bullpen. Even Justin Verlander, who threw 99 pitches to earn the win Friday, didn’t rule himself out.
Joe Girardi should have his entire staff except for Game 6 starter Luis Severino and Chad Green, who threw 2 1⁄3 innings of scoreless relief.
Sabathia hasn’t given the Yankees a ton of length in his postseason starts, but there’s no one the team would rather have in a spot like this. He is 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA after Yankees losses this season.
“We’ve seen it so many times,” Girardi said. “And we’re going to need him to come up big. He’s done it a couple of different times in the playoffs, during the course of the season, and something that I think he loves to do is pitch in these type of situations. And we need him to come up big.”
The Astros’ offense woke up in the fifth inning Friday, scoring three runs against Severino. They weren’t going to stay quiet forever.
“This is a great team,” Sabathia said. “Tough lineup. It’s going to be a battle. Just try to come out, pound the strike zone, be aggressive, and hopefully get some swings early in the count and allow me to pitch deep into the game.”