NEW YORK -- There were two outs in the sixth inning of Saturday's 2-1 Yankees victory when Joe Girardi sprinted across the infield grass, clad in his dugout jacket. Cradling the baseball in his left hand, CC Sabathia eyed his manager curiously, trying to pick words out of a stream of consciousness ramble about the current game situation.
"He was just going through all these scenarios and different stuff, and I just told him, 'Hey, you're the manager. Make the decision,'" Sabathia recalled, with a laugh. "That was the first time he ever came out there and told me what he was thinking. I honestly didn't know what he was going to say, but the conversation was pretty funny."
Sabathia wondered if Girardi thought he was still talking to pitching coach Larry Rothschild, and Girardi chuckled, too, raising his right arm to signal for reliever Chad Green. It was a feel-good moment that may have marked Sabathia's final regular-season appearance in Yankees pinstripes.
"He made me laugh, really," Girardi said. "I'm not going to repeat what he said. I just love watching him do what he does over the course of a season and the course of the year. I just wanted to make sure that we were in a good spot moving forward, but he made me laugh."
Pressed into duty as the Yanks took one last swing at catching the Red Sox in the American League East, Sabathia strapped his bulky brace over his right knee and wrapped his year with 5 2/3 innings of scoreless, four-hit ball.
"CC's been that guy for us all year long, especially early in the year," Aaron Judge said. "We had a couple tough losses, and he'd come out the next start and he'd just dominate. He was that guy that always got us back on a roll. It was impressive to see what he did today."
Jaime Garcia had been listed as the Yanks' scheduled starter, but Sabathia had gone home on Friday evening knowing that he would take the ball if the Red Sox lost their game against the Astros on Friday. They did, leaving the Yanks two games back with two to play. The Yankees were back in the clubhouse after Saturday's win when Boston clinched the AL East with a 6-3 win at Fenway Park.
The Yankees now turn their attention to the AL Wild Card Game, which will be played on Tuesday night against the Twins in New York at 8 ET on ESPN.
"We fought for the AL East title, and I'm very proud of the guys in that room and what they've accomplished, the way that our veterans have led us, the way that our kids have stepped up in a huge way for us," Girardi said. "I believe we've played our best baseball the last six weeks and that's what you want."
A free agent after this year, the 37-year-old Sabathia finished the season 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts, walking 50 and striking out 120 in 148 2/3 innings. Sabathia said that he has not been told when he will pitch next, but he says he is ready for whatever the Yankees need him to provide.
"It's still the same attitude. It's still the same Yankee way," Sabathia said. "The guys that have come in with the rebuild, [Gary] Sanchez and Judge, those guys have carried us. It's been a lot of fun to watch [Luis] Severino emerge as one of the best pitchers in baseball. It's just been fun to be the old guy and sit back and watch these guys do their thing."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.