In what could wind up being a duel between the AL’s Cy Young Award winner and Rookie of the Year, Sabathia and Bannister will oppose each other Friday night when the Cleveland Indians begin a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Jacobs Field.
Sabathia (17-7, 3.15 ERA) has made a strong late-season push in a bid to become the Indians’ first Cy Young winner since Gaylord Perry in 1972.
“I don’t think about that,” Sabathia said. “If I can just stay healthy and help this team get a ring, that’s all that matters.”
Sabathia has helped Cleveland (85-61) build a 5 1/2-game lead over the Detroit Tigers in its pursuit to win its first AL Central title since 2001, the left-hander’s rookie season. Sabathia has allowed fewer than three earned runs in all 10 of his starts since July 24, a span in which he is 4-3 with a 1.83 ERA.
“The only thing C.C. concerns himself with is how this team does when he goes out there and pitches,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, whose team has the majors’ best record since Aug. 15 at 20-7. “He’s been as important to us as anybody in this locker room.”
Sabathia, one win behind the Boston Red Sox’s Josh Beckett and the New York Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang for the majors’ lead, has victories in three straight starts. He needs one more win to set a single-season high and register No. 99 of his career.
Sabathia, though, has lost each of his last two starts against Kansas City (63-82), falling to 12-8 with a 3.29 ERA in 26 appearances against the Royals.
Sabathia pitched his fourth complete game of the season Saturday, giving up a run, five hits and a walk in Cleveland’s 6-1 road win over the Los Angeles Angels.
“I really didn’t want to put any pressure on myself and say this was a big game,” Sabathia said. “I just tried to think of it as another start and just go out there and throw strikes, keep things close and get a win.”
Bannister (12-8, 3.46) surrendered a season-high seven runs, seven hits and three walks in the Royals’ 11-5 home defeat to New York on Saturday. The right-hander also gave up a season high-tying three homers to the Yankees.
Bannister had not allowed more than three runs in any of his previous eight starts, winning four straight and going 7-1 with a 2.17 ERA in that span. He is trying to become the Royals’ first Rookie of the Year since Angel Berroa in 2003.
“I just continue to pitch the same way,” Bannister told the Royals’ official Web site. “I try not to let stuff like that affect me.”
Bannister gave up only an unearned run and five hits in seven innings of a 4-3 win on June 6 at Cleveland, his only outing against the Indians.
The Indians start a nine-game homestand Friday and are playing at Jacobs Field for the first time since the Chicago White Sox ended their seven-game home win streak on Sept. 2. Cleveland is 44-27 at home this season.
The Indians had their four-game win streak snapped with a 7-4 loss in Chicago on Wednesday.
“You can’t dwell on it too long,” right-hander Jake Westbrook told the Indians’ official Web site. “There’s going to be days like this. You can’t do anything about it.”
The Royals ended a season high-tying seven-game losing streak by beating Minnesota 6-3 on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. The win assured the Royals wouldn’t lose 100 games for the first time since posting an 83-79 record in 2003.
“I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal,” manager Buddy Bell said.