Sabathia, offense tough in the clutch
Ace gets out of jam in the fifth, bats respond with big inning
CLEVELAND -- All week, the talk surrounding C.C. Sabathia has been about his maturity, his level-headedness, his coolness under pressure.Those were certainly attributes Sabathia would go on to display on the mound in Thursday night's convincing 12-3 victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS at a raucous Jacobs Field, albeit with a twist. In the waning hours before the first pitch of the Tribe's first postseason game in six years, relaxation was not necessarily Sabathia's strong suit. Hardly. "He was so excited," said left fielder Kenny Lofton, whose four RBIs were only a portion of the impressive offensive display the Indians would stage for their ace. "I'm like, 'C.C., we've got time. The game doesn't start until 6:30 p.m.' He was so fired up about getting out there to start the game." With a soldout crowd of 44,608 fans on hand -- many of whom were donning shirts of red and waving flags of white -- the game started with a bang. And a controversial one, at that. Yankees leadoff man Johnny Damon smacked Sabathia's 3-1 pitch down the right-field line and over the wall. Initially, umpires Jim Wolf and Laz Diaz, positioned on the line, were unsure of a ruling. They conferred with the rest of the six-man umpiring crew, and a dinger it was. All the build-up and all the energy that palpitated the ballpark were in danger of being rendered moot. And all that discussion of Sabathia's growth and emergence as an ace was about to be put to the test. Sabathia was erratic. His pitches were elevated, and his command was shaky. He walked Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez with one out, and danger was on deck, in the form of Jorge Posada. "I was fired up," Sabathia said. "I was trying not to throw hard, and I looked up there a couple times and saw I was throwing 97 [mph]. I was like, 'Calm down, and try to throw strikes.'" Those inner monologues never amounted to much in Sabathia's youth. On this night, however, he proved to be a very receptive audience to his own speech. Posada struck out swinging. Hideki Matsui grounded out to second. The inning was over, 33 pitches after it began.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.