A change in scenario wasn't able to reverse the Brewers' left-hander's luck.
Working on three days' rest for the fourth straight start, Sabathia surrendered a second-inning grand slam to Shane Victorino, a blast that highlighted the Phillies' 5-2 win on Thursday in front of a Citizens Bank Park record crowd of 46,208 in Game 2 of the NLDS.
After losing two straight in Philadelphia, the Brewers are in danger of being eliminated from the best-of-five series. History is working against Milwaukee, as National League teams are 0-16 when dropping the first two.
Sabathia has carried the Brewers so many times during the regular season, boasting an 11-2 record with a 1.65 ERA since he was acquired from the Indians on July 7.
"It's frustrating," Sabathia said. "I think tonight, more than just trying to be too perfect, I was just not finishing. I think I had some opportunities to get out of some innings and get out of some at-bats when I needed to. I just didn't do it."
Finishing was a word Sabathia used often on the night he exited after 3 2/3 innings, having allowed five runs while throwing 98 pitches. In the second inning alone, he labored through 34 pitches. On his 31st pitch in the inning, the left-hander gave up the grand slam to Victorino.
It was just the second slam Sabathia has allowed in his career. The other came on April 16 while he was with the Indians, when Edgar Renteria of the Tigers connected.
A year ago, Sabathia had his struggles in the playoffs while he was pitching for the Indians. The 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner was 1-2 with an 8.80 ERA, including two losses to the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series.
Overall, Sabathia's playoff ERA is now 7.92.
In assessing then and now, Sabathia says the circumstances are completely different. Addressing the media on Wednesday, he talked about how in 2007, he thought he had to be perfect and carry the team. He pledged to be more relaxed and not try to do too much.
"It didn't seem anything like it was last year," Sabathia said of his shortest outing since he tossed 3 1/3 innings on April 11, when he was still in Cleveland. "What today was, I wasn't able to finish innings and at-bats. I think that's the reason why I pitched so bad.
"I don't think I was overly excited today. I don't think I was not pumped up enough. I just think that I wasn't able to make pitches when I needed to."
|Here's a look at Sabathia's postseason numbers following Thursday night's loss:|
|2001 (Indians): 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 1 GS, 6 IP, 6 H,|
2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
|2007 (Indians): 1-2, 8.80 ERA, 3 GS, 15 1/3 IP,|
21 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 3 HR, 3 HBP, 13 BB, 14 K
|2008 (Brewers): 0-1, 12.27 ERA, 1 GS, 3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 0 HBP, 4 BB, 5 K|
|Totals: 2-3, 7.92, 5 GS, 25 IP, 33 H, 22 R, 22 ER, |
4 HR, 3 HBP, 22 BB, 24 K
Was working on short rest for the fourth straight time an issue?
"I don't think so," he said. "I felt fine. I thought I had good stuff. They did a good job of laying off the changeup."
A turning point in the second inning was when Phillies right-hander Brett Myers worked out a walk in a nine-pitch, two-out showdown with Sabathia. After falling behind 0-2, Myers hung in and eventually reached base. Jimmy Rollins walked on four pitches, and Victorino -- on a 1-2 pitch -- belted the first grand slam in the Phillies' postseason history.
After throwing 17 pitches in the first inning, Sabathia logged 81 pitches over his remaining 2 2/3 innings before he was lifted for Mitch Stetter with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.
Stetter worked out of the jam by striking out Ryan Howard.
Since joining the Brewers, Sabathia has shouldered so much responsibility for his club. He's been a workhorse, logging 130 2/3 innings in 17 games.
Counting his numbers with Cleveland, he entered Thursday with 253 innings under his belt.
Not only did he compile innings. Sabathia limited runs.
"He's the man," Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder said before Thursday's game. "You expect him to pitch well. He usually does. A bad game for him is like three runs. You always feel good when he's on the mound."
The only other time the Brewers ace allowed as many as five earned runs this year was on April 16 against the Tigers. He gave up nine that day in four innings.
The most runs he yielded as a Brewer had been four. In his previous three starts on three days' rest, he gave up two earned runs (six total) in 21 2/3 innings.
Considering how overpowering he has been, are expectations too high when he takes the mound?
"No, because I expect that out of myself," Sabathia said. "This is where I need to be. This is the situation I want to be in. This is the situation I need to be in. I needed to come out here and pitch a good game tonight. I didn't do that. So you can blame this loss squarely on me."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.