Sabathia gives Yankees just what they needed

CLEVELAND — For four innings on Wednesday night, CC Sabathia was as dominant as he ever has been and made Joe Girardi’s decision to go with the veteran over Sonny Gray for the biggest game of the season look brilliant.

In the Yankees’ series-clinching 5-2 victory over Cleveland, the 37-year-old looked like the pitcher who dominated the Orioles twice in the 2012 ALDS, his last postseason victories before Wednesday.

He retired the first nine batters he faced, striking out six, before Francisco Lindor singled to lead off the fourth.

Sabathia had no trouble getting out of that inning, striking out two more and then fanning Carlos Santana to open the fifth with the Yankees leading 3-0.

But as has sometimes been the case with big lefty this season, he unraveled quickly. After the strikeout of Santana, Sabathia allowed four straight hits.

Austin Jackson started it and went to third on a Jay Bruce single to right. Roberto Perez’s single to right scored Jackson, and Giovanny Urshela followed by grounding one through the right side of the infield to knock in Bruce and make it 3-2.

And just like that, Sabathia’s outing was over after just 4 ¹/₃ innings and 69 pitches.

His nine strikeouts matched a season-high, but they didn’t do him much good in the fifth. He left with runners on first and second.

Robertson, though, made quick work of Lindor, getting him to ground into an inning-ending double play.

Robertson’s 2 ²/₃-inning performance helped make up for Sabathia’s sudden trouble.

Beforehand, Girardi noted the high expectations he had of Sabathia.

New York Yankees
Didi Gregorius celebrates with Gary Sanchez after hitting a solo home run in the first inning.

Charles Wenzelberg

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
Corey Kluber gave up three earned runs before being pulled in the fourth inning.

Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees Game Five of the ALDS in Cleveland Ohio
Didi Gregorius rounds the bases after hitting his second home run of the game to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the third.

Anthony J. Causi

New York Yankees
CC Sabathia walks off the mound after striking out Edwin Encarnacion to end the 4th inning.

Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
Roberto Perez stands on first after hitting an RBI single to cut the Yankees lead to 3-1 in the fifth.

CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez
Sanchez meets with Sabathia on the mound after the Indians get on the board in the fifth.


Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
David Robertson shuts out the Indians over 2 2/3 innings to preserve the Yankees’ 3-2 lead.

Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman works a scoreless eighth inning to send the Yankees into the ninth with the lead.


Todd Frazier, Aaron Hicks
Todd Frazier (right) celebrates with Aaron Hicks after scoring on Brett Gardner’s single in the ninth.


Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
The Yankees mob Aroldis Chapman after he gets the final out.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
Gardner and Starlin Castro congratulate each other on the Yankees’ Game 5 win.

Divisional Round - New York Yankees v Cleveland Indians - Game Five
Frazier (right) embraces a smiling Chapman on the mound.

“We’ve seen it so many times,” Girardi said of Sabathia pitching well in important spots. “It’s in personality. He’s had the experience that he’s been in these types of games and he doesn’t change. I think he embraces them. … You look at when he signs up for a season, this is what he signs up for, these type of games. And I think that’s why we all have so much confidence in him.”

Sabathia didn’t see any drama until Perez tried to bunt for a hit with one out in the third. The catcher popped up the bunt in front of the mound, where Sabathia dove awkwardly to make the play.

Sabathia, who reacted angrily when the Red Sox deployed a similar tactic earlier in the season, screaming at their bench — and former Yankee Eduardo Nunez — didn’t seem as bothered this time around.

After adjusting the brace on his right knee, Sabathia came back to strike out Urshela. He pitched around Lindor’s leadoff single to left in the fourth before exiting in the fifth. He’ll no doubt get a chance to start again against the Astros.

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