The certainly didn’t figure he’d outlast manager Ned Yost.
One day after the front office made the stunning decision to fire Yost, Sabathia will try to help the fading Brewers keep pace in the NL wild-card race Tuesday night when they begin a three-game set with the Central-leading Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Milwaukee (83-67) trailed the Cubs by 3 1/2 games in the Central on July 6, when it brought in Sabathia to make a push toward the division title that alluded it last season. The Brewers had an 8 1/2-game cushion in late June 2007, but ultimately were overtaken by Chicago, keeping Milwaukee from its first playoff appearance since 1982.
Sabathia (9-0, 1.59 ERA) has certainly done his part to get the team to the postseason as the Brewers are 12-1 when he pitches, but Milwaukee is 22-26 when he hasn’t started.
Those struggles have been much more pronounced in September. The Brewers came into the month with a 5 1/2-game lead in the wild-card race, but have gone 3-11 since and that ultimately cost Yost his job Monday.
“This was a very difficult move to make, and we appreciate all of the work that Ned has done to develop this team into a contender,” general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. “In the end, this was a collaborative decision made to put our club in the best position for the final two weeks of the season.”
Third-base coach Dale Sveum will serve as interim manager.
The final straw in Yost’s tenure came over the weekend in Philadelphia. The Phillies, who came in four games back in the wild-card standings, outscored Milwaukee 28-10 in sweeping the four-game set. They pulled even with the Brewers on Sunday, limiting them to two hits in a 6-1 win.
“This series was a complete and total disaster,” left fielder Ryan Braun, in a 1-for-24 slump, told Milwaukee’s official Web site. “It can only go in one direction from here. It can’t get any worse.”
The one solace for the Brewers is knowing Sabathia didn’t pitch in that series. He last started Wednesday against Cincinnati, though he wasn’t as sharp as he’s typically been. Sabathia gave up three runs over seven innings and didn’t get a decision in Milwaukee’s 4-3 comeback win.
The Brewers had won four of their first six with the Cubs (90-58), but their most recent memory of Chicago was a terrible one. With the teams tied atop the Central entering a four-game set at Miller Park from July 28-31, the Cubs pulled off a four-game sweep, and haven’t looked back since - they lead the division by eight games.
Sabathia gave up four runs - three earned - in 6 2/3 innings in that series’ opener.
Chicago won 20 of 26 from there, but recently looked like it might be joining the Brewers in a September swoon. The Cubs had lost eight of nine before taking two games in St. Louis last week. Hurricane Ike got in the way of their series in Houston, which was eventually moved to Milwaukee’s Miller Park, deemed a neutral site for the two teams.
But “Wrigley Field North” was anything but neutral to Chicago. Before 23,441 primarily Cubs fans on Sunday, Carlos Zambrano tossed the franchise’s first no-hitter in 36 years in a 5-0 win. On Monday afternoon Ted Lilly pitched six no-hit innings, and homers from Derrek Lee, Jim Edmonds and Geovanny Soto lifted Chicago to a 6-1 victory.
“You don’t know if you’ll ever have that opportunity again, but I’ll take tonight the way it was,” said Lilly, who wound up giving up one hit in seven scoreless innings.
While Sabathia has been prominently mentioned as an NL Cy Young candidate, it’ll be the Cubs who are giving the ball to a 2008 All-Star on Tuesday night. Ryan Dempster (15-6, 3.02) will be trying to earn his career-high 16th win, and 12 of those have come at Wrigley.
Dempster’s latest outing was Tuesday at St. Louis, where he pitched well but didn’t figure in the decision. The right-hander gave up three runs over seven innings in Chicago’s 4-3 loss.
Dempster hasn’t had any problems with Milwaukee this season. He’s 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in three starts against the Brewers, who are hitting .182 against him.
That’s exactly what Braun and first baseman Prince Fielder are hitting (each 2-for-11) lifetime versus Dempster.