Last week the games didn’t count. The Yankees called upon the “the linebackers,” aka the young farm boys with jersey numbers that are more typically seen on defensive linemen than they are on the baseball diamond.
Girardi still filtered in his star players, but it was clear and unsurprising that the game’s final score was decidedly secondary to other goals at hand, like giving the big guns some rest and giving the rotation one last go-around to see who’s ready (AJ Burnett) and who’s not (JOBA F&^$ING CHAMBERLAIN) for postseason play.
The merciful break from tensed shoulders and handwringing and general baseball-induced anxiety was refreshing, entertaining, and most importantly, successful in meeting its objective. In tonight’s series opener with the Rays, however, there’s a new focus driving the game.
Giving the invaluable and deserving CC Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) his first 20-win season.
It’s really the least the Yankees can do for their Cy Young-contending, inning-eating, K-hemorrhaging lefty beast who they acquired in the off-season for the bargain price of $161 million for 7 years.
With the exception of the Teixeira acquistion, money was never better spent.
In the last 11 starts, round boy is 9-0 with a 2.11 ERA. In his pinstriped debut (and new Yankee Stadium’s debut) he delivered a less than stellar performance and haters skipped with delight about the Yanks’ latest bombed expenditure. 26 starts later, he’s one of the best pitchers in the league and poised to open up the postseason next week as the Game 1 ALDS starter.
Tonight he’ll face Tampa Bay’s outstanding rookie David Price (9-7, 4.60) whose pitches are just flat out nasty. Once a “who IS this kid?” reliever, he’s now toted his solid arsenal to the rotation and unlike some other bullpen-to-starter guys I know, his filth hasn’t lost much in translation.
(Which is generally the case when you have more than just 2 pitches to trot out.)
His go-to fastball steadily hovers around the mid-90s, but it’s his slider-curve mutt that’s just stunning. He seems to have more of a handle on control, but I wouldn’t be shocked if his focus is somewhat compromised tonight.
The 0-9-Line isn’t too intimidated by, well, anything, but particularly pitchers who are predictable. Which Price is. Assuming we face Detroit on Wednesday, tonight is an opportune time to take batting practice on a poor destitute man’s Verlander.
And if nothing else, tonight is prime time to get out of scrimmage mode and start weening back into all-consuming playoff ferocity. And, uh, what better play to do this than the Trop.
I can’t believe I have the watch the last regular season’s games played out in that contraption. Grumble grumble.
Here’s to giving our ace and his 290 pounds of supreme value his 20th win. Also, throwing in an Arch Card might be a thoughtful supplement, as well.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 2, 2009