Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

CC, Stadium Are Team's Chicken Soup

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

CC, Stadium Are Team's Chicken Soup

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - This was the game the Yankees absolutely, unconditionally had to win in order to stay alive in the AL Championship Series. Without it, the Bombers would've been in the fast lane to pitchers and catchers, wondering how quickly their October came to an end.

So who did they turn to? Do we even have to ask?

Better question: How did it turn out?

Put it this way: When it comes to big games, CC Sabathia is the Yankees' chicken soup. Everything feels better, now that the big lefty shut down the Astros in an 8-8-1 laugher in Game 3 on Monday night. The series' pivotal moment comes tonight, when Sonny Gray looks to tie it at two games apiece.

If momentum means anything, then Gray can thank Sabathia, who reinforced what grace under pressure means in October.

He kept the Astros under control for six innings, limiting them to just three hits and never letting of their hitters feel comfortable. That includes Houston's big guns — George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa — who were just 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. Unlike Luis Severino, who tried to throttle the Astros' lineup with pure heat, and Masahiro Tanaka, who relied on a power splitter, Sabathia lived just below Houston's hitting speed. He feathered both sides of the plate with a 79-mph slider, which made his modest 90-mph fastball look liked it had been shot out of a cannon.

None of this should have surprised Yankees fans, who've seen Sabathia evolve into a latter-day Andy Pettitte. But with a 10-0 record following a Yankees loss, Sabathia has taken his legacy to another level — he's to the '17 club what Jimmy Key was in '96. Or better yet, Sabathia is becoming the next Whitey Ford. It's a stunning evolution for a pitcher with 3,200 career innings in that arm and one killer case of arthritis in his right knee. Sabathia was ready to go home, for good, when that knee flared up in August. But there he was on Monday night, pitching in front of a sold-out crowd, coolly giving the Bombers a shot against the American League's most dangerous lineup.

What does it mean for Game 4 and beyond? That depends on Gray, who last faced the Astros on June 20 with the A's and gave up five runs in five innings. There's a reason why Joe Girardi pushed Gray to the back of the rotation, forcing him to wait two weeks between starts. Gray has devolved into the Bombers' most inconsistent starter. With the Bombers peering into the abyss, it was Sabathia who Girardi trusted. Of course.

It didn't hurt, either, that the Yankees were facing Charlie Morton, one of the weaker links in the Astros' rotation. The Bombers needed less than two innings to begin inflicting damage, getting a three-run HR from Todd Frazier. That set the stage for a five-run third inning, which put the game out of reach and turned the rest of the night into nationally televised calisthenics for tonight's showdown. …

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