And so it turns out the ALDS started the way it began, with CC Sabathia dominating the Baltimore Orioles lineup long enough for the New York Yankees to do its thing.
Did you really expect otherwise?
That's not taking anything away from the Orioles and their great year either. While they were able to rough up Sabathia a few times during the regular season, the big lefthander has had Baltimore's number for much of his career. He's the surest thing on a Yankees roster that doesn't produce the reliability you'd think all that money would and it's because of Sabathia that the Yankees are moving on after a 3-1 victory over the Orioles in ALDS Game 5 on Friday night.
Sabathia's complete-game effort at Yankee Stadium in the decisive game of the series was exactly what you'd expect from a guy who received a $161 million contract from the Yankees before the 2009 season and then pitched them to a World Series title that October. He allowed only one hit over the first seven innings, ran into some trouble in the eighth when he loaded the bases and allowed a run, then got out of it and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for the win.
"We have so much belief in CC," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You think of what he has done since he got here. It's been an unbelievable run for him. And he went through his ups and downs because of some injuries this year, but he's gotten it right again and it's vintage CC."
While A-Rod's benching and Raul Ibanez's pinch hit homers in Game 3 might serve as the lasting images from this series, the Yankees might not have advanced were it not for Sabathia being a workhorse in the first and final game. He pitched a total of 17 2/3 innings, giving up a total of just three runs, 12 hits and three walks while striking out 16.
All of it was a simple confirmation that CC Sabathia pitching against the Orioles is one of the surest bets in baseball. Over 25 career regular season starts, Sabathia is 16-4 with a 3.12 ERA.
Sabathia likely won't pitch against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS until Game 3 or 4 and he admitted it'll be hard to sit the first few games without being able to make an impact.
But make no mistake, Sabathia is the reason the Yankees will be there.