Sabathia tries to shake out of a recent funk as he returns to the mound on three days’ rest on Wednesday, when the Brewers continue a three-game series with the Pirates at Miller Park.
The left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.04 ERA in his last four starts, losing the last two. Sabathia (9-2, 1.81 ERA) was let down by his defense in a 4-3 loss on Saturday at Cincinnati, where he gave up only one earned run among his four in 5 2-3 innings. But his last outing against the Pirates on Aug. 31 resulted in a controversial one-hitter, with the lone single a check-swing roller he failed to field cleanly in the fourth.
The Brewers sent replays of that play to MLB offices in the hopes of getting the official scorer’s ruling overturned, but MLB upheld that decision.
It is that form from Sabathia that interim manager Dale Sveum is counting on to further Milwaukee’s momentum after a dramatic 7-5 victory in which Prince Fielder hit a two-run, two-out game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday.
“These last five games or so, we really need to win as many as possible, so for me to do that was pretty awesome,” said Fielder. “The better part about it was just seeing my teammates. That was pretty cool.”
Sabathia, who will be a free agent, seems equally unconcerned about the short turnaround and is making a case to pitch Milwaukee’s season finale on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs if a playoff berth is at stake.
“If we need to get in, if it’s still that urgent on Sunday, I believe I’ll be out there,” Sabathia said. “If it was (another) team I played for and we were in this same situation, please believe I’d take the ball every time they’d give me a chance to.”
Sabathia has conceded one run in 15 innings in two victories over the Pirates this year, and is 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in five lifetime starts against them.
Fielder’s homer capped a tumultuous game for the Brewers, who squandered two leads and rallied to tie the game at 5 in the eighth before Fielder’s decisive blast into the seats in right-center field. Milwaukee (86-71) improved to just 6-15 in September, but more importantly, remained one game behind the New York Mets in the NL wild-card chase.
Paul Maholm (9-8, 3.68) will try to help the Pirates (65-92) regroup, though he has struggled against the Brewers this season. The left-hander went 0-1 in two starts over a six-day span, getting tagged for eight runs and 19 hits in 11 1-3 innings, and has not fared well throughout his career against Bill Hall and Mike Cameron.
Hall is batting .609 (14-for-23) with four doubles, two homers and seven RBIs, while Cameron is 10-for-15 (.667) with three homers and seven RBIs. Ironically, Fielder - hitting .412 with six homers and 17 RBIs during his current 13-game hitting streak - is 1-for-18 (.056) with six strikeouts versus Maholm.