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DETROIT – No matter what his team’s offense is – or isn’t – doing, CC Sabathia just wants to keep doing his thing on the mound. If it’s as good as it was in Game Five of the division series against Baltimore, the New York Yankees have some hope in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park.
Sabathia will pitch for the first time in the ALCS tonight against Detroit’s Max Scherzer. The outing comes in the wake of his brilliant four-hitter that eliminated the Orioles, the Yankees’ first complete game in the postseason since Roger Clemens’ one-hitter at Seattle in the 2000 ALCS.
Sabathia said he’s feeling no less margin for error on the mound even in the face of his team’s struggles at the plate.
“I always want to go out and try to shut the other team down and give us as many opportunities to score,” he said here Tuesday. “With the way we – as cold as we are, we can get just as hot, especially with our lineup and the veterans we have and great players we have.
“We always had a faith that if you go out there and do your job, you are going to score runs, and we have all year really.”
The Yankees lost Game Four in 13 innings to Baltimore, necessitating Sabathia’s start in Game Five. That sent their rotation askew for this series as well, leaving their ace on the sidelines until Game Four.
“I am definitely looking forward to getting a chance to pitch in this series,” Sabathia said. “You know, I felt pretty good the last two or three times out and [in the regular season] and felt good in the bullpen, so I just look to continue to build off of that, make sure I have my command down, the fastball command, and really work off that.
Sabathia said there was no way he could talk his way into the Game Three start, even though there was plenty of thoughts among fans and media the Yankees might try to match him up against Justin Verlander in Game Three.
“I don’t think there was any talking my way into it,” he said. “I think they had it pretty much set that Phil [Hughes] was going to throw Game Three after we went five with Baltimore. So there was no point in me wasting my breath and trying to do that.”
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Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he’s still taking a day-by-day approach to his closer role, given the fact the last seven runs the Tigers have allowed were yielded by Jose Valverde. Leyland did not use Valverde in Game Two on Sunday but said he had several plans for Game Three, one of which included Valverde.
Valverde was 110 for 118 in save opportunities the last three years for the Tigers, so his sudden implosion in the postseason has been a major trouble spot. Leyland said he adds plenty of stress for a manager.
“The reason I love a closer that is a definite closer and a good one like Valverde has been and Mariano Rivera has been, is that it takes a lot of pressure off the manager,” Leyland said. “My mom never even used to second-guess me when I brought in a top-notch closer.
“When you have to explain when you brought this guy in versus that guy, it is a nightmare for you. But when Joe Torre or Joe Girardi bring in Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning with a one-run lead, there is no human being that has ever questioned that. That is a delight for a manager.”
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Leyland said he’s been thrilled by the results on all sides from the 2009 trade with the Yankees and Arizona that resulted in Curtis Granderson going to New York and Game Four starter Max Scherzer coming to the Tigers from the Diamondbacks in addition to Phil Coke and Austin Jackson joining Detroit from New York.
“I’ve always been one that wants trades to work for both teams and I think they have. That’s the best way to sum it up,” Leyland said. “Because then you have the ability maybe to trade with that team again when it works out. You’re talking about a guy [Granderson] that hit 40-some home runs this year for the Yankees. So when trades work out for both teams, that’s the best kind.”
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Yankees bench coach and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena was busy on Monday’s day off as he went to Boston to interview for the Red Sox managerial opening. Pena managed Kansas City from 2002-05 when Allard Baird was Kansas City’s general manager. Baird is now in Boston’s player personnel department.
email: mharrington@buffnews.com