The 2008 regular season produced four 20-game winners, but the 2009 campaign has yet to christen a single one. On Friday, the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia look to change that.
Sabathia will toe the rubber at Tropicana Field, facing a Rays team that has given him some trouble this year. The 29-year-old left-hander is 0-1 in three starts against Tampa Bay, with a combined 4.35 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. However, in his lone outing at Tropicana Field, Sabathia was touched up for six runs (five earned) on nine hits in just 5 2/3 innings in a 6-2 New York loss.
The aforementioned defeat is Sabathia’s most recent setback — and it came ages ago, on July 28. Since then, the pinstripes’ ace is a spotless 9-0, and the Yankees have won all of his 11 starts during that span. They plan to pull out all the stops to keep that streak alive on Friday.
Manager Joe Girardi has indicated that he will put the team’s full starting lineup on the field behind Sabathia, and use any reliever necessary to get CC the victory, should he take a lead into the late innings. That commitment shows the significance of Sabathia’s accomplishment to the Yankees, who have had just five 20-game winners over the past 24 years, the most recent being Mike Mussina last season.
Opposing Sabathia on Friday will be Rays left-hander David Price. The first overall pick in the 2007 draft, Price is 9-7 with a 4.60 ERA this season in 22 starts. The 24-year-old has pitched very well at home, going 7-3 with a 3.11 ERA at the Trop, and has tallied a pair of no-decisions in his two outings against the Yankees. The Rays are 1-1 against the pinstripes with Price on the mound, but just 5-10 versus New York overall.
If Sabathia is able to outduel Price and earn his 20th win, he will be the only pitcher to do so in the American League. That figures to give CC a unique edge in the AL Cy Young balloting after the season, which is likely why the Yankees are so devoted to helping him attain the vaunted victory total. But the man in the spotlight isn’t dwelling on it.
“I never thought about winning a Cy Young or winning 20 games,” said Sabathia. “I always just wanted to win a championship.”
And although Sabathia might finish with four more wins than the Royals’ Zack Greinke, it’s the 25-year-old Kansas City ace who should take home the hardware. With a 2.06 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, six complete games, three shutouts, and 237 strikeouts in 223 1/3 innings, Greinke has been the Junior Circuit’s best hurler this season, from beginning to end.
While 20 wins would be a nice achievement for CC Sabathia in his first year in the Bronx, the accolades should stop there. He doesn’t care about them anyway – with the exception of a World Series ring.