Yankees turn to Sabathia in winner-take-all Game 7 (Oct 21, 2017)

October 21, 2017

HOUSTON -- In seeking to become the 14th team in postseason history to rally from a 2-0 series deficit, the New York Yankees will turn to the most veteran member of their staff.

Left-hander CC Sabathia will attempt to pitch the Yankees to their 41st pennant on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.

Sabathia made two starts the last time the Yankees qualified for the World Series, going 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA in a six-game victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009.

Buoyed by their youth in arriving ahead of schedule at the cusp of another pennant, the Yankees are emboldened by what Sabathia has meant to the franchise both past and present.

Sabathia is 10-5 with a 4.24 ERA over 22 career postseason appearances (21 starts) and 123 innings. He was named Most Valuable Player of the 2009 ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels and, at 37 years old, is 1-0 with a 2.30 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings and three starts this postseason. His lone victory came over the Astros in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, when he tossed six scoreless innings of three-hit ball.

"We've seen it so many times," New York manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia producing in critical situations. "And we're going to need him to come up big tomorrow. He's done it a couple of different times in the playoffs, during the course of the season, and something that I think he loves to do is pitch in these type of situations. And we need him to come up big."

Sabathia got the start in Game 5 of the AL Division Series at Cleveland on Oct. 11, and while he didn't factor in the decision, he pitched effectively enough for the Yankees to claim their fourth consecutive elimination game of this postseason. That the Yankees are entrusting him to lead the way in another elimination game speaks to all that he has accomplished previously.

"It's going to be exciting tomorrow, to be able to have the opportunity to go to the World Series, one game," said Sabathia who, along with left fielder Brett Gardner and right-hander reliever David Robertson, was on that 2009 World Series roster. "I'm excited."

In pursuit of just their second pennant and first since relocating from the National League in 2013, the Astros will send right-hander Charlie Morton to the mound on Saturday. Morton has endured two difficult outings this postseason, both on the road, yet Astros manager A.J. Hinch is convinced that tough luck has played a role in undermining Morton and his overall ledgers.

"With Charlie, he's been one of the unluckiest pitchers in postseason," Hinch said. "He's not been hit hard, given up a couple of runs here and there. We just feel like with everyday rest or regular rest, he's a great option."

While Hinch has acknowledged that all hands will be on deck regarding his pitching staff, the Astros received a much-needed jolt from their offense, which broke out in Game 6 for a 7-1 victory. Houston had mustered just nine runs total over the previous five games, and after batting just 4-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the series entering Game 6, the Astros were 4-for-7 on Friday night.

Their four-run eighth inning was reflective of their usual offensive exploits, with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman all recording extra-base hits to provide some insurance runs and generate momentum heading into the series finale.

"As soon as we start playing, we forgot about the last three games in New York," said Altuve, who finished 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. "And when I did that, what I did, it was just trying to get the team going. And obviously, it was a really good night for us. It's a lot of expectations for tomorrow's game."

Houston will attempt to become the eighth team in postseason history to win a seven-game series in which the winning team lost three consecutive games during the series.