If he stays healthy and the New York Yankees stick with their current rotation for the final 34 games of the season, pitcher C.C. Sabathia should start eight more times, including the last game of the year against the Houston Astros on Sept. 30.
That would presumably leave the Yankees’ No. 1 starter unavailable to pitch the Wild Card play-in game, should that be necessary. In prior years, that would be a cause for serious concern. This year, however, it could be a blessing. The pitcher Sabathia has been for the first 26 starts of this season does not appear likely to improve too much over his final eight.
Sabathia has been very hittable this season, giving up a team-high 27 home runs and 183 hits in 171 innings. His control has also been less than pinpoint, averaging nearly three walks per nine innings. Neither his ERA (4.83) nor his WHIP (1.354) are marks of a staff ace. They’re numbers one would normally see out of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
In fact, the biggest individual beneficiary of last Sunday’s epic game against the Boston Red Sox in which Ryan Dempster plunked the much-maligned Alex Rodriguez was Sabathia. He wound up with the win that night despite allowing six earned runs in only 5.1 innings pitched.
That seemingly tainted victory, coupled with a win over the Angels on Aug. 13, marked the first time Sabathia had won in back-to-back starts since mid-June. It has become quite clear that he has not been able to make adjustments to his reduced velocity with any consistency.
If the Yankees have any chance of erasing a six-game deficit in the Wild Card chase and sneaking into the playoffs, they need Sabathia to make those adjustments immediately.
With this year’s ace Hiroki Kuroda suddenly struggling after losing for the second straight time on Friday, a dominant Sabathia becomes essential for the Yankees to be involved in October baseball.
The Yankees have survived a subpar season from Sabathia thus far, but they can’t survive it any longer with so few games remaining. They need him to return to being the ace he’s been throughout his career down the stretch, starting tonight.