CLEVELAND -- At one point in early August, New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia was not sure what his future held in the game of baseball, or if there was one at all when he walked off of the mound at Rogers Centre after just three innings of work against the Toronto Blue Jays.
After allowing four earned runs, two home runs, one walk and six hits in a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays, Sabathia underwent a battery of tests, but following a 10-day rest period due to knee issues, he returned to the mound and has been a mainstay in the Yankees’ rotation since.
Now healthy after the issue with his knee, Sabathia is ready to pitch in Game 2 of the 2017 American League Division Series against his former team, the Cleveland Indians, at Progressive Field tonight.
“It means a lot,” Sabathia said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do or what the future would hold. Obviously, to be sitting here, getting ready to pitch a playoff game feels really good, and the knee feels good.
“Hopefully, it holds up and I can go out and pitch effectively.”
From 2013 to 2015, Sabathia went through a rough patch, both with knee problems and off-the-field issues, having earned run averages of over 4.50 in each season and posting a 23-27 record.
However, after a third straight losing season in 2016, Sabathia went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts in 2017 for a Yankees team that won the American League Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night to earn their spot in the ALDS.
Now, Sabathia will look to even the series against the Indians, who took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five set with a 4-0 victory Thursday night.
“Postseason, every start for me now, I enjoy getting an opportunity to play,” Sabathia said. “Obviously, being in this position to have a chance to win a championship is what you play for. You cherish all of them.
“When you were younger, I went to the playoffs my very first year, and thought, ‘Oh, I’ll be here every year.’ Didn’t go for six years, so you have to cherish them all.”
Although Sabathia returns to the postseason today, he does so against a loaded Indians lineup, with a pair of All-Star infielders, shortstop Francisco Lindor and second baseman Jose Ramirez, at the top, setting the table for sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana.
Combined during the regular season, Encarnacion (38), Lindor (33), Ramirez (29) and Santana (23) slugged 123 home runs, while Bruce, a late-season acquisition from the New York Mets, smashed two extra-base hits and drove in three runs in a 4-0 Game 1 win over the Yankees.
Encarnacion became the fifth player in Indians history with at least 100 RBI and 100 walks in the same season, joining Jim Thome, Al Rosen, Travis Hafner and Andre Thornton in the exclusive club, while Lindor set a single-season club record for home runs by a shortstop.
“It’s a good lineup,” Sabathia said. “Top to bottom, they do everything. They run. They’ve got power. They make you throw a lot of pitches. It’s going to be tough to face them, but just look to be aggressive like I always do in the strike zone and try to get them to mis-hit some balls.”