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First Pitch: CC running out of chances

8/24/2013

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Assuming he remains healthy and the Yankees stay on rotation for the final 34 games of the season, CC Sabathia will take the mound eight more times in this disappointing 2013 season.

Including the final game of the season on Sept. 30 against the Astros in Houston.

CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia

#52 SP
New York Yankees

2013 STATS

  • GM26
  • W11

  • L10

  • BB49

  • K145

  • ERA4.83

Presumably, that would leave the Yankees' nominal ace unavailable to pitch the wild-card play-in game, which, despite the team's recent run of victories, seems to be about the best finish they can hope for.

In years gone by, that would have been cause for panic, even at this (relatively) early date.

But this season, it might be a source of relief.

Because the pitcher Sabathia has been for the first 26 starts of this season does not appear likely to improve markedly over his final eight.

In fact, the biggest individual beneficiary of Sunday's chaotic game against the Red Sox in which Ryan Dempster drilled Alex Rodriguez, nearly igniting a bench-clearing brawl, was Sabathia.

Not only did he wind up with a win -- despite allowing six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings -- he also became a mere footnote to the story when, on an ordinary night, he would have been the story.

That tainted victory, coupled with a win over the Angels on Aug. 13, marked the first time CC had posted back-to-back victories since mid-June. Clearly, whatever adjustments he had been expected to make after he came into camp with reduced fastball velocity, he has been unable to make with any consistency.

And now, if the Yankees are to have any chance of squeaking into a playoff spot, they need Sabathia to make those adjustments pronto.

With Hiroki Kuroda struggling -- he lost Friday night for the second straight time, allowing four home runs for only the second time in his career -- an effective Sabathia becomes essential for this Yankees season to continue past Sept. 30.

"We need him to step up [Saturday]," Joe Girardi said. "That's what we need him to do."

Sabathia has been hittable this season -- a team-high 27 home runs and 183 hits in 171 innings -- and his control has been less than pinpoint, averaging nearly three walks per nine innings. Neither his ERA (4.83) nor his WHIP (1.354) is becoming of a staff ace. More like a No. 3 or 4 starter.

"I thought some of the starts he's had a pretty good sinker, a pretty good changeup," Girardi said. "He is a command guy, and, when he doesn't have it, that's a little confusing for all of us.

"But," he repeated, "We need him to step up [Saturday]."

Undoubtedly true. The Yankees have survived a subpar CC so far, but they can't survive him any longer. They need the big man to pitch a bunch of big games down the stretch, beginning with tonight's game against the Rays and their ace, David Price.

QUESTION: Do you still have faith in CC in a big game? Or would you rather see Kuroda, Ivan Nova or Andy Pettitte with the ball in his hand in a crucial spot? Sound off in the comments section, or via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees.

UP NOW: The Rapid Reaction from Friday night's 7-2 loss (always worth a read), as well as a blog on what could be ailing Kuroda and postgame notes, including the prospect of when we will see Derek Jeter in a Yankees uniform again this season.

ON DECK: Game 2 of this important three-game series matches Sabathia against Rays ace David Price (7-5, 3.29), first pitch at 7:10 p.m. I'll be at the clubhouse door when it swings open at 3:40 p.m., and I'll post the lineups as well as any pregame news as soon as it becomes available, so tune in frequently. And as always, thanks for stopping in.