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10/21/09 4:22 PM ET

One team's loss is Yanks, Phillies' gain

Potential matchup of CC vs. Lee a painful reminder to Tribe

ANAHEIM -- CC Sabathia's New York Yankees are a win away from the World Series, as are Cliff Lee's Philadelphia Phillies. And so the two American League Cy Young Award winners the Tribe traded away in back-to-back seasons find themselves on track for a collision in Game 1 of the Fall Classic, which would take place Oct. 28 at Yankee Stadium.

It's a probable pitcher possibility that would haunt Indians fans, who still can't quite get over their club becoming the first in history to trade away consecutive Cy Young winners -- especially after the organization waited 35 years to have a pitcher win one, in the first place.

When asked during Wednesday's AL Championship Series workout day at Angel Stadium what he'd say to those fans, Sabathia laughed.

"I don't know what to tell them," he said. "It's not our fault."

Sabathia and Lee have already opposed each other once this season, in the April 16 opener of the new Yankee Stadium (Lee earned the win for the Indians; Sabathia, a no-decision). So Sabathia downplays the potential Game 1 pairing.

"That was a pretty big game, too," he said of the opener in the Bronx. "I'm sure we'd treat it the same way."

Sabathia said he still texts with Lee frequently, and he beamed at the possibility of getting to hit off Lee later in the Series.

Still, Sabathia doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself. This 3-1 lead his Yankees possess in the ALCS, he knows, comes with no guarantees.

The Indians, after all, were in this same position against the Red Sox in 2007, with the big left-hander on the mound for Game 5 at Jacobs Field. And when Sabathia was outdueled that night by Josh Beckett, the series shifted back to Fenway Park, where the Tribe dropped the last two games and furthered the Cleveland sporting curse.

AL Championship Series
Gm. 1 NYY 4, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 4, LAA 3 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 LAA 5, NYY 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NY 10, LAA 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 LAA 7, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 5, LAA 2 Wrap Video

Sabathia took the brunt of the blame for that collapse, and he remembers it all too well now, as the Yankees look to put the Angels to bed.

"Don't take anything for granted," Sabathia said. "We were in the best position possible a couple years ago in Cleveland, but you've got to finish it off. We weren't able to do it. But we've got the guys here who have been through this before."

And therein lies Sabathia's confidence -- confidence that revealed itself Tuesday night, when he turned in a masterful eight innings of work on short rest to beat the Angels for the second time in four games.

Sabathia admitted he didn't have this type of confidence in 2007 with the Indians, because he didn't have nearly as experienced and proven a starting cast behind him then as he does now.

That Tribe team, by and large, was new to this stage. Sabathia was one of the lone members of the club with any postseason experience whatsoever. And when the Red Sox applied the pressure, the Indians crumbled in the last three games of the season.

Now, Sabathia, who signed a seven-year, $161 million free-agent contract over the winter, looks around a loaded (and that term, of course, has multiple connotations in this sense) Yankees clubhouse and knows the weight of the season doesn't rest on his shoulders.

Once known to overthrow in high-pressure situations, Sabathia isn't feeling any such pressure now.

"You don't have to," he said. "You've got Derek Jeter, you've got Alex Rodriguez, you've got Robinson Cano, you've got Johnny Damon and all these guys behind you. You don't have to do too much. You just have to be yourself, and let everything else take care of itself. It definitely helps to have this great team behind you."

That team is one win away from reaching the World Series, and Lee's Phillies could be waiting for them.

Meanwhile, the Indians are a world away, in the midst of a managerial search after their second successive season of unmet expectations and major changes in the clubhouse.

The sell-off began when Sabathia was shipped to the Brewers on July 7, 2008, for prospects Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson. Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco were sent off on July 29 of this year for prospects Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, Jason Donald and Jason Knapp.

A Phillies fan hung a banner in Citizens Bank Park during an National League Championship Series game the other day that thanked the Indians for their contribution. It remains to be seen if such a banner will be held high in Cleveland, thanking the Brewers or Phils.

CC Sabathia entered 2009 with a history of postseason duds, but he has hit his stride with the Yankees.
2007CLEALCSBOSL4 1/3853
2008MILNLDSPHIL3 2/3545
2009NYYALDSMINW6 2/3108
Total5-347 2/3252544

Sabathia just shakes his head when he thinks about what's transpired in Cleveland over the past two years. That 2007 playoff team has been almost completely dismantled, especially now that manager Eric Wedge and his coaching staff have been dismissed.

"The only guy I know over there is Grady [Sizemore]," Sabathia said. "And Jake [Westbrook], when he comes back [from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery]. That's it."

But Sabathia could watch the postseason games this year and see plenty of former Tribe teammates scattered about -- Victor Martinez in Boston, Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard in Los Angeles and Rafael Betancourt in Colorado, to name a few.

"It's weird to see," Sabathia said, "but it's part of the game."

And the business side of the game is what led to the Indians having to part with Sabathia and Lee, both of whom had pitched their way out of the cash-strapped Tribe's price range.

Now, Sabathia and Lee are poised to meet again on baseball's biggest stage.

Cue the cringing in Cleveland.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.