ALCS: New York Yankees veteran CC Sabathia schools Houston Astros

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 17, 2017 at 5:27 PM
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NEW YORK -- When CC Sabathia signed his first professional contract in 1998, Carlos Correa was three years old. When Sabathia made his major league debut in 2001, Alex Bregman was seven years old. When Sabathia won the Cy Young Award in 2007, Jose Altuve was 17 years old.

All of which is to say the elder statesman taught the young Houston Astros a thing or two Monday night, when the 37-year-old Sabathia tossed six shutout innings and earned the win as the New York Yankees got back into the American League Championship Series with an 8-1 victory in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium.

The Astros lead the best-of-seven series two games to one. Game 4 is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

The power of his youth long gone after logging nearly 3,700 professional innings, Sabathia nonetheless flummoxed the prolific and patient Astros by mixing sliders, changeups and the occasional 90-92 mph fastball in authoring a scoreless outing for the first time in 22 career postseason starts back to 2001.

"It's weird, me being 37, (using) smoke and mirrors, getting a shutout," Sabathia said with a grin.

It might have been weird, but it wasn't a surprise to the Yankees, who are becoming accustomed to watching their second-oldest player (Matt Holliday was born six months before Sabathia in 1980) thrive on the October stage in the autumn of his career. Sabathia has a 2.30 ERA and has allowed just 17 baserunners over 15 2/3 innings in three starts this month.

"He's a bulldog," said Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier, who provided Sabathia all the support he'd need with a three-run homer in the second inning. "Look at the size of him. He looks like a bear out there just on the mound, just ready to pounce on somebody."

The Astros entered Monday ranked first among remaining playoff teams in postseason batting average (.293), tied for first in extra-base hits (21) and second in OPS (.846), but Sabathia allowed just a quartet of singles as well as four walks while striking out five. He was particularly stingy with runners in scoring position, a situation in which Houston batters went 0-for-4 with a walk.

Sabathia wriggled out of his biggest jam in the third, when he allowed three straight batters to reach with two outs before inducing Correa to pop out weakly to short on a 91 mph fastball.

"He can pitch with the elevated fastball," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's got a pretty good breaking ball, especially when he gets you in the swing mode. We were a little swing happy tonight against him, and he took advantage of being able to pitch in the outer parts of the strike zone."

The Astros stranded four runners in Sabathia's final two innings and left runners on the corners in the sixth, when Sabathia fielded a slow comebacker by Josh Reddick, who was a downright ancient 14-year-old when Sabathia made his major league debut.

Sabathia then proved his competitive fires haven't aged a day by cursing at Reddick as he walked off the field. It was quite the exclamation point to the longest scoreless postseason start by a pitcher age 37 or older since 37-year-old Pedro Martinez threw seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the 2009 National League Championship Series.

"That was just me being me, man," Sabathia said of the exchange with Reddick.

All these years later, that's still good enough.

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