HOUSTON -- Now that there will be a deciding Game 7 after the Yankees' 7-1 loss in Game 6 on Friday, New York has the peace of mind knowing it will be turning to veteran left-hander CC Sabathia to face the Astros in the final game of the American League Championship Series on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
The Yankees are looking for their first trip to the Fall Classic since 2009, and Sabathia will be pitching on regular rest after throwing six scoreless innings in Monday's Game 3 of the ALCS presented by Camping World. Sabathia scattered three hits and four walks while striking out five in New York's 8-1 win. Sabathia, 37, has looked like his old Cy Young Award-winning self this October, posting a 2.30 ERA with 19 strikeouts over 15 2/3 innings in three playoff starts.
"It's going to be exciting tomorrow to be able to have the opportunity to go to the World Series," Sabathia said. "It's going to be a battle tomorrow. Just try to come out, pound the strike zone, be aggressive, and hopefully get some swings early in the count that allows me to pitch deep into the game."
Sabathia has pitched well when the Yankees need him most, as he's 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts (including the postseason) following a New York loss this season. The veteran also has a 3.31 ERA in 17 career postseason appearances with the Yanks, including 16 starts.
"That's our guy," right fielder Aaron Judge said. "Any time in a big situation we need someone to go in there and have a quality start, CC has been our guy for us. There's nobody else we would want."
Sabathia threw 99 pitches last time out and leaned heavily on his slider, throwing it 38 times compared to 39 fastballs. He located both pitches well, getting 12 called strikes with the fastball and eight with the slider. Sabathia's slider generated four swings and misses, compared to two with his four-seamer.
"We've seen it so many times," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "And we're going to need him to come up big tomorrow. He's done it a couple of different times in the playoffs, during the course of the season, and something that I think he loves to do is pitch in these type of situations. And we need him to come up big."
Sabathia hasn't pitched deeper than six innings in any of his three postseason starts this year, but the Yanks will have key relievers Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman available after Chad Green threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 6. Robertson was hit hard in Game 6, allowing four runs, but he threw only 12 pitches, while Dellin Betances showed a positive step forward with a scoreless inning on 15 pitches, so it'll be all hands on deck.
"It's going to be crazy," said third baseman Todd Frazier. "It's going to be mayhem. The crowd was great again here. It might be tough sleeping tonight. It's one of those things where we've been there before, we know what we're capable of and what needs to be done. It'll be a battle and we'll have the big man on the mound, so we're happy about that. That's the guy we want out there, for sure."
Sabathia is one of three Yankees players who were on New York's World Series-winning roster in 2009, joining center fielder Brett Gardner and Robertson. Sabathia was an All-Star from 2010-12, but he has dealt with injuries and personal struggles all while the Yanks missed reaching the AL Division Series from 2013-16, with an AL Wild Card Game loss to the Astros in '15.
So Sabathia knows just how sweet it would be to pitch the Yankees back to the World Series for a record 41st time as the franchise looks to win its 28th title.
"You never take these opportunities for granted," Sabathia said. "That's why it's special to pitch and play in October. It's been a tough road, not being in the playoffs for a long time, and going through my personal things. It will feel good to get out there tomorrow and have an opportunity to try to pitch this team to the World Series."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.