The 2015 season for the New York Yankees has been as inconsistent as the New York City subway. However, with the bright lights of October ready to shine in the Bronx, the Pinstripes may have found their rallying cry.
By Jeff Weisinger
New York Yankees former ace-southpaw CC Sabathia has been as much of a non-factor on the mound the last two seasons, three if you include 2015, as the Yankees have been during the same time span.
For the first time in his career, he recorded back-to-back single-digit win totals, let alone back-to-back losing seasons and has looked nothing like the, literally, big-time ace that we’ve paid to see over the last decade and a half. However, the former catalyst of the 2009 Yankees World Series run made his biggest move on Monday to help himself, and the Yanks postseason cause – he left.
Sabathia’s decision to leave the team and check into alcohol rehab on Monday, a day before their one-game playoff against the Houston Astros in the Bronx, could possibly be the reason the Yankees make a run in this postseason. It give the Bombers a new life and something to actually play for Tuesday night and beyond if they defeat the Astros.
“We play for CC now,” Alex Rodriguez said on Monday. “CC has gone to the mat for us many, many times. I know me personally and a lot of us in here, we wouldn’t have a ring if it weren’t for CC.”
Sabathia will be in a rehab facility for a month – believed to be somewhere in Connecticut – and has full support from the Yankees front office, manager Joe Girardi and the rest of his teammates.
For those keeping count, given the amount of support he’s being given by the organization, this will not be a similar situation to what happened with the Angels and Josh Hamilton after he relapsed earlier this season. The Angels gave Hamilton the boot, sending him to divisional rival Texas for next-to-nothing.
Instead of shunning the situation and acknowledging their disappointment in the timing of it, the Yankees are embracing it and using it as their motivation, which could show as a sign that the Yanks finally found something to play for besides a ring and what would be the 28th championship in the Yankees’ history.
“For [Tuesday], not just for the team but maybe we can get a win for CC as well,” ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka said.
Tanaka is expected to start on the mound for the Yankees Tuesday night in his postseason debut. His sophomore season in the majors (12-7, 3.51 ERA, 139 K) left much to be desired and he’s looking to bounce back from a pedestrian five-inning outing on the mound against the Red Sox on Sept. 30 where he allowed four runs on five hits with just three strikeouts in the Yanks 9-5 loss to Boston in the Bronx.
With the Yankees entering the postseason losing six of their last seven, they’ll need their ace to step up in his first time in the October lights.
“MLB is a little bit more bigger than professional baseball in Japan” Tanaka said through his translator on Monday.
Keep in mind, this is the same guy who pitched on just hours rest in the clinching game of the 2013 Japan Series after throwing 160 pitches the night before. In short, Tuesday night is a chance for him to prove that he’s worth the near $200 million the Yanks paid.
Girardi already stated that Tanaka will pitch without restrictions.
However the Yankees struggled against the Astros this season, especially against expected starter Dallas Keuchel, the likely winner of the 2015 American League Cy Young Award.
Keuchel, despite posting the best season of his career (20-8, 2.48 ERA, 216 K), is just 5-8 on the road with a 3.77 ERA – numbers that are decent, however show his struggles away from Minute Maid Park this year (15-0, 1.46 ERA at home). Keuchel has currently shutout the Yankees through 16 combined innings against them on the mound, striking out a combined 21 batters while allowing just nine hits.
“I hope the third time’s a charm,” Girardi said. “He’s been good and he’s been tough on us. We like the guy going for us and its one game.”
The Yankees hope that luck is on their side in their third meeting with the Houston left-hander. Keuchel enters Tuesday night’s game on three-day rest for the first time in his career while the Yankees’ pitching staff is perfectly rested.
“Keuchel has been as good as there is in the league,” Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. “They have a lot of good, young players. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
“They’re young, they’re fast, Girardi added. “The big thing is we have to shut them down and keep them off the bases. They do have power. They hit the ball out of the ballpark just like we do.”
The Astros are also the owners of the worst road record in the American League, finishing 33-48 outside of Houston this season. The 33-48 road record is second-worst in the majors this year.
For the first time in the history of the Yankees franchise, the Bombers will play in a one-game playoff. For the first time since their last postseason run in 2012, the Yankees will have to go through the playoffs without their formerly-dominant big-man on the mound.