First Pitch: Time for CC to step up

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
6:00
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In CC Sabathia's past three starts, the Yankees have handed him a lead and he has returned it. In games against Rays lefty heavyweight, David Price, Sabathia won for the first time in May after four negative decisions and a 4.40 ERA. So, for a guy who has been as successful as Sabathia, he is going to have to overcome these struggles Friday night.

Even if the Yankees can win the division, it is almost inconceivable that they will have a parade this year if Sabathia can't find his fastball. In his most recent start, he averaged a notch under 92 mph, which is not a good enough number for him to be dominant. Of all people, Joe Girardi said the incredible amount of mileage on Sabathia's left arm could be catching up with him.

Sabathia throws at least 230 innings every season, which is an incredible feat. Many like to blame any failures he has on a lack of conditioning. This has always seemed off-base to me. It is easy to say that when Sabathia falters it is because of his weight. This, though, ignores the fact that he has long been one of the game's most durable and successful pitchers, even at 300 pounds. Yes, he has gone on the DL twice this year, which matches his previous career total.

The scary injury for Sabathia and the Yankees is the sore elbow. You can call it minor, as he and the Yankees did, but that is like saying a car has a minor brake problem. It is minor until it is not.

So Sabathia will get the ball tonight. With 19 games to go, he is the one who has to lead the Yankees to an AL East crown and beyond. If Sabathia isn't right, it is hard to see how the Yankees are the best team in the AL this year.

UP NOW: Wallace Matthews after the Yankees finished up with the Red Sox.

ON DECK: Your weekend pitching matchups for the teams' final regular-season series of the year: Price (17-5, 2.54) vs. Sabathia (13-5, 3.56); Saturday, James Shields (14-8, 3.71 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (11-7, 4.92); Sunday, Matt Moore (10-10, 3.68) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.17).

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you believe in CC?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
12 2.51 135 129
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .282
HRM. Teixeira 17
RBIM. Teixeira 48
RB. Gardner 64
OPSB. Gardner .789
ERAM. Tanaka 2.51
SOM. Tanaka 135