CC Sabathia takes the ball tonight for the Yankees in the finale of the Subway Series. He is coming off perhaps his best game of the season, a complete-game gem with 10 strikeouts against the Braves last week.
SLIDING INTO FORM
Sabathia had his slider working in that game. All 10 of his strikeouts came with his slider, his highest total in any start since 2009, and held the Braves hitless in 12 at-bats ending in a slider.
Look for him to continue that success with the slider against the Mets, who as a team are hitting just .163 in at-bats ending in a slider from lefties. Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis have seen the majority of those pitches; they are a combined 10-for-71 (.141) against sliders from lefties.
Sabathia also kept the ball down vs the Braves, with a season-high 70 percent of his balls in play on the ground. The Braves were just 1-for-17 with nine strikeouts in at-bats ending in a pitch in the lower third of the zone or below.
Sabathia, however, might be want to be wary of trying to get Josh Thole to hit a grounder; he is hitting .306 on groundballs in play, well above the major-league average of .223. The upside is that none of Thole’s 22 hits on grounders have gone for extra bases, so the damage is minimal.
BRINGING THE HEAT
Sabathia, who struggled with his fastball command in recent starts, dominated the Braves with his heater. He threw a season-high 80 percent of his fastballs for strikes and got a season-best 16 called strikes on his heater.
The effectiveness of his fastball will face a stiff challenge from Scott Hairston and David Wright, who have identical .389 batting averages against heaters from southpaws. Hairston is slugging .861 versus those pitches as nine of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases.
Though Sabathia’s run prevention has been less than impressive this year, he has consistently gone deep into games and is striking out batters at career-best rate of better than one strikeout per inning.
He now has pitched at least six innings and had four or more strikeouts in each of his first 14 starts this season, matching Mike Mussina in 2006 for the longest such streak to start a season by Yankee in the last 90 seasons.
SOLVING THE KNUCKLEBALL MYSTERY
R.A. Dickey will be on the mound for the Mets as he looks to continue his historic season. The Yankees have not been able to solve Dickey’s knuckleball in recent years.
He has allowed just two runs over 11 innings in two starts (both last season) against the Yankees since joining the Mets. His 1.64 ERA is the second-best against the Yankees since the start of last season of any pitcher that has started at least two games versus them.
However, a few Yankees have found success against him. Raul Ibanez is 8-for-25 (.320) and is the only MLB player to hit three homers versus Dickey; Alex Rodriguez is 6-for-13 (.462) with two doubles against him.