CC Sabathia is a Yankee because they wanted a starting pitcher who can go out and win a game all by himself in the biggest moments of the year.
They got what they paid for on Friday evening. Sabathia pitched a complete game, allowing the Orioles just one run and striking out eight on his way to a 3-1 win that put an end to a tight, tense American League Divisional Series.
Sabathia's finest work came in the eighth inning when his control eluded him at the start of the inning and allowed the Orioles to turn a walk and two singles into their only run of the game. Sabathia wound up walking the bases loaded with one out, but he struck out Nate McLouth and got J.J. Hardy to bounce one to Derek Jeter to end the threat.
The stuff of aces, which is exactly what Sabathia has been in September and October after a year of injuries and erratic performances that made you wonder if he was going to be able to front the rotation effectively enough for the Yankees to make a playoff run. Sabathia threw 17.2 innings of three-run ball against the Orioles, which should take care of that question.
We're not sure the question of the Yankee bats has been solved, although we'd certainly advise keeping Raul Ibanez in the mix as much as possible. The hero of Game Three singled home Mark Teixeira with the first run of the game while batting fifth in a lineup that was notable for who wasn't a part of it.
Alex Rodriguez's slide from centerpiece to afterthought continued as Joe Girardi benched him in favor of Eric Chavez despite A-Rod's good career numbers against O's starter Jason Hammel. No one's going to raise an outcry because the Yankees won, but it took a performance like Sabathia's to keep that lineup decision from being the lead of every story about this game.
The Yankees would get more runs on a double by Ichiro Suzuki that scored Derek Jeter and a home run by Curtis Granderson, who otherwise looked as lost at the plate as anyone has ever looked over the course of the series. Perhaps that will get him moving in the right direction for the ALCS against the Tigers.
Moving on is going to take more than a few runs here and there while counting on great starts every night, especially when the Tigers have their own version of Sabathia in Justin Verlander. The team needs to start putting more runs on the board or they are going to find themselves right back behind the 8-Ball against the team that knocked them out last season.
It's a quick turnaround with Game One on Saturday, so the Yankees won't be doing much celebrating on Friday night. That's okay, though, because you get the feeling they don't think they've won anything yet.