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New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia during Game 3. The Detroit Tigers won in a tight 5-4 game Monday night.
Rafael Soriano's first season in the Bronx started out rocky when Brian Cashman said he wouldn't have signed him if not for an edict from upper management and it might end rocky if the Yankees can't extend their season on Tuesday night.
Soriano fed a first-pitch fastball over the plate to Delmon Young, a player whose only skill is punishing first-pitch fastballs over the plate, and Young hit it out to right field to give the Tigers their margin of victory in a tight 5-4 win on Monday night in Detroit.
Soriano has not earned many fans in New York this year and he'll lose the few he has left after the pitch selection that led to Young's home run. His mistake came just after the Yankees finally solved the mystery of Justin Verlander and tied the game at four in the top of the seventh inning.
With Verlander touching triple digits and two outs, Jorge Posada, who is having as good a series as any Yankee hitter, battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk. Russell Martin was hit by a pitch and Brett Gardner doubled both men home after taking another 100+ heater into the left-center field gap.
Verlander had been cruising at that point. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Verlander allowed just four hits and a walk as he totally shut down the Yankee bats.
He finished with 11 strikeouts in eight innings and showed everything you want to see from an ace in a big playoff start. The same can't be said of CC Sabathia.
He gave up four runs, six walks and seven hits in 5.1 innings in which he never had any kind of command of the 106 pitches he threw to get that far. The final run scored in the sixth inning when Joe Girardi, with action in the bullpen, stuck with his starter longer than he should have given Sabathia's obvious inability to pitch the way he normally does.
The blame game for Sabathia's outing will start immediately. You have no shortage of options at your disposal.
Was it the tight strike zone of Gerry Davis (which Girardi complained about during an in-game interview) or the disruption of pitching Friday and then coming back on Monday? Should Girardi have pitched Sabathia between September 21st and the end of the season or was Sabathia simply worn down by overuse and poor conditioning?
Whatever the reason, Sabathia turned in a start that looked a lot like the one Randy Johnson had in the same stadium back in the 2006 ALDS and that wasn't what the Yankees needed to see from their ace. But even with Sabathia's struggles, the Yankees were tied in the seventh inning before Soriano gave up the game and put the season on the brink.
That means the season comes down to A.J. Burnett on Tuesday night. That is absolutely the last person on planet Earth that Yankees fans want to see on the hill with their backs up against the wall, but that's who they're getting.
It would be quite a story if he got the job done, but we'll have to wait and see if the baseball gods are in the mood to spin a yarn for the ages.
Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.