CLEVELAND -- CC Sabathia was near tears. The brace that had kept his left knee from acting up had failed him in Toronto, the pain forcing him out of a game on Aug. 8 after just three innings and putting the veteran in a precarious position. Perhaps, he wondered as he boarded a flight the next morning, this was the end of the road for him.
So it is with part shock, part relief and a heavy dose of gratitude that Sabathia will take the mound today for Game 2 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. He cherishes every start he's made since coming off the disabled list earlier this season, but a postseason one -- against the organization he came up in -- carries with it some serious emotions for the big lefty.
"It means a lot," Sabathia said of the chance to lead this young, plucky Yankees team to a playoff win. "[At the time of the knee injury] I didn't know what I was going to do or what the future would hold. Obviously, to be sitting here getting ready to pitch a playoff game tomorrow feels really good, and the knee feels good. Hopefully, it holds up and I can go out and pitch effectively tomorrow."
Sabathia, who will be looking to help the Yanks even the ALDS after Sonny Gray lost the opener, has a wealth of postseason experience in his 17 seasons in the Major Leagues. As a Yankee (since 2009), he's 7-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 14 postseason games (13 starts). While Sabathia has great home numbers during the postseason -- a 2.03 ERA in seven games -- he enjoys the often-daunting atmosphere of pitching away from Yankee Stadium.
"I've always enjoyed pitching on the road. I don't know, it's a weird thing," Sabathia said. "It doesn't bother me, the crowd or anything like that. So obviously being really familiar with the park here [in Cleveland], I feel like I can be able to go out tomorrow and hopefully pitch a good game for us."
Sabathia, who plans to pitch beyond this year, is coming off a 14-5 season in which he made 27 starts. He allowed 61 earned runs over 148 2/3 innings (3.69 ERA), and the Yankees went 19-8 in his starts.
"I think it all goes down to his heart and his mental toughness for CC," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been through a lot in his career, the expectations, how he's handled the ups and downs. Having to reinvent himself, becoming different than a power pitcher mentality. I think he's always handled it because of the mental toughness. I think he was as much scared in Toronto as anything, but once he got the news, he was like, 'OK, I'm good to go.'"
Following that DL stint, Sabathia went 5-0 with a 2.91 ERA in eight starts. He did not face the Indians this year, but he is 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 11 starts against his former club. Sabathia, who has made 123 career starts in Cleveland, will be making his first Division Series start since 2012. And he'll treat it as if it will be his last.
"Obviously, being in this position to have a chance to win a championship is what you play for. Yeah, you cherish all of [these starts]," Sabathia said.
"When you were younger -- I went to the playoffs my very first year [In 2001 with the Indians] and thought, 'Oh, I'll be here every year'. Didn't go for six years. So you have to cherish them all."
Brittany Ghiroli has worked for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.