Sabathia makes compelling case for Cy
Left-hander strikes out 13 Royals for a new career high
CLEVELAND -- C.C. Sabathia felt a good vibe as he retreated to the clubhouse late in the Indians' 5-4 victory over the Royals on Friday night.
The Indians trailed by three, the result of Sabathia's brief unraveling in the fifth inning. But as the ace sat with ice wrapping his left shoulder, he foresaw victory.
"I just had a feeling that we were going to win this game," Sabathia said. "I just had a feeling that somebody was going to get a big hit, a big home run."
Somebody did -- in this case Casey Blake -- and it offered a fitting ending for a night that deserved to be marked by celebration for Sabathia.
The left-hander struck out a career-high 13 hitters -- two more than his previous crest -- while striding into the club's record books as the Tribe's most prolific left-handed strikeout man in 37 years.
Sabathia's 198 punchouts are the most by a Cleveland left-hander since "Sudden" Sam McDowell struck out an astounding 304 in 1970. The 13 Ks were also the most by an Indians pitcher since Bartolo Colon set down that many in 2000, against the Yankees.
So even though he gave up more than two earned runs for the first time in 11 starts and was denied his 18th victory, Sabathia remains in good standing in the chase for his first Cy Young Award.
In fact, the way he recovered from a disappointing fifth inning that saw him give up five of his eventual seven hits and all four of the runs he allowed was telling. Whereas he would have collapsed as a younger pitcher, he came back to consecutively strike out Mark Teahen, Emil Brown and John Buck in the sixth before cruising through the seventh.
"The way C.C. comes back, the way he handles himself, that impresses the heck out of you time and time again," manager Eric Wedge said. "It's been a good three years now since he's been what you saw, just in regard to how he goes about his business like that."
As for the strikeout total, Sabathia can't explain it. He simply said that his offspeed pitches were on, and he flawlessly commanded his fastball. But perhaps he doesn't care to rack up a baker's dozen in strikeouts if it means he's going to throw 116 pitches and be forced to come out after seven innings, as he did on Friday.
"I ended up getting that pitch count up there pretty high," he said. "I'd rather get outs just any way, however I can get them."
One thing is indisputable. However Sabathia gets the outs, it's working, and he's stating quite the case for the Cy Young Award to run through Cleveland for the first time since Gaylord Perry won it in 1972.
Sabathia's 3.21 ERA is fifth-best in the league, his 17 wins are the second-most in baseball, his 198 strikeouts are fourth-most in the game and his 227 innings lead the Majors. In fact, he has thrown the most innings by an Indians pitcher since Charles Nagy tossed 227 in 1997.
What's more, he is 8-4 after a Tribe loss, he's the only pitcher ever to beat Twins ace Johan Santana three times in a season and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is the second-best by a left-handed pitcher since 1901.
If the Tribe's higher-ups had a vote for the Cy Young Award, it's not hard to figure which direction they'd go.
"I'm biased, because I can't imagine where our team would be without him," general manager Mark Shapiro said.
Will the fact that Sabathia plays in a smaller market matter? Wedge doesn't think so.
"I think [that] when it comes to people who are in this game and know this game, they know how special C.C. is and what he's meant to this ballclub," he said.
For his part, Sabathia has deflected all postseason awards talk. He has a few other things on his mind.
"I'm just worried about getting that [division] title," he said. "I want that more than any other individual award. I want to pitch in the postseason, and I want to win a championship."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.