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Time for Yankees LHP CC Sabathia to Deliver

Yahoo Contributor Network

Phil Hughes (15-12) had one of his best performances this year Thursday, striking out seven Boston Red Sox batters over 7 1/3 shutout innings in the New York Yankees' 2-0 win at Fenway Park. He gave up five hits and one walk, and lowered his ERA to 3.96, the lowest it's been since Aug. 1 (also 3.96).

In a 5-4 win Wednesday, David Phelps (4-4, 3.42 ERA) did his part, holding Boston to one run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. Phelps' outing was an encouraging response to the beating he took from the Baltimore Orioles (81-62)--five runs on six hits (two homers) in four innings--at Camden Yards in his previous start.

The Yankees (81-62) desperately needed what they got from Hughes and Phelps to escape Boston with a 2-1 series victory, and now the onus is on CC Sabathia (13-5, 3.56 ERA) to keep their winning streak alive Friday night vs. the Tampa Bay Rays (77-66).

The Rays, countering with their left-handed ace, David Price (17-5, 2.54 ERA), were just swept by the Orioles, who, along with the Yankees, have a four-game edge over Tampa Bay in the AL East and second wild card slot (Los Angeles Angels trail by 3 1/2).

Sabathia has started four games against Tampa Bay this season, pitching to a 1-1 mark and 3.21 ERA (10 earned runs allowed in 28 innings). He last faced the Rays on Sept. 3 at Tropicana Field. In that game--which the Yankees lost 4-3--Sabathia tossed seven innings and yielded eight hits, two walks and three runs in a no decision.

Sabathia hasn't been ace-like recently, going 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA in his last three turns. Last Saturday, he got shelled for five runs on eight hits--three of which were homers--over 6 1/3 frames in New York's 5-4 loss to Baltimore. That type of production isn't going to get the Yankees any closer to a division title.

Sabathia is paid handsomely to deliver in big games, and Friday is as big a game as any he's pitched in all year. It's easier said than done, of course, considering that he's taking on a September-tested team in the Rays. And his pals on offense face a tough task in the person of David Price, who is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA (nine runs allowed in 25 1/3 innings) in four starts vs. New York this season.

Nevertheless, it's time for Sabathia to be a shutdown starter and for the Yankees overall to elevate their play, to win in streaks. Otherwise, they'll risk suffering the consequences of mediocrity.

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