On Monday night in the Bronx, New York Yankees 37-year-old lefty starter CC Sabathia will try and do something Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino was unable to do: beat the Astros. Though the Game 1 and Game 2 starters pitched well enough to collect wins.
Game 3 of the ALCS (8:08 p.m. first pitch, FS1) will pit Sabathia against Charlie Morton, who has only a pair of postseason starts in his 10-year MLB career. Playing in a raucous atmosphere like Yankee Stadium, Morton might not be as sharp as Dallas Keuchel or Justin Verlander, meaning New York could score some runs. Or at least more than the combined two over the first two games of the series.
That could mean Sabathia’s responsibility on Monday will be to just stifle the Astros enough for the Yankees to outscore them and then shut things down with their vaunted bullpen.
Here are two ways in which Sabathia can get that done.
Believe in the slider
Sabathia’s slider was absolutely filthy during Game 5 of the ALDS to help slay the Cleveland Indians.
He tied a career best with nine strikeouts on the night, using that slider as his main strikeout pitch. The low-80s pitch with an 11-to-5 drop is baffling when it’s on:
In an age where the fireballers get all the glamor, Sabathia’s ability to adapt his game after losing his velocity that once touched the upper-90s is shown through this pitch. With a fastball that can only top at around 90 mph nowadays, the slider comes out of his hands with the same arm angle and with the same trajectory as his primary pitch. But at the final moment, the dip as it enters the strike zone makes the pitch a devastating one.
A starter getting through six innings isn’t an easy task, especially against a loaded lineup like the one Houston provides. If Sabathia is dealing though, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Sabathia does not have the same kind of stuff from 10 years ago that will overpower a hitter, but it is imperative that he is aggressive and goes right after the Astros. All wasting pitches will do is drive up his pitch count and send him to the showers early.
His main objective should be giving the ball off to David Robertson, who can pitch the seventh and/or eighth before getting things to closer Aroldis Chapman. If the Yankees are able to use three or fewer pitchers on Monday night, they win, easy as that.