Heavy favorites and defending pennant winners New York and Philadelphia each entered game five of their League Championship Series in a 3-1 hole. Each team had its ace going in game five, each against a comparably talented, but less accomplished pitcher. That’s not where the similarities end.
I don’t mean to suggest that CC Sabathia’s talent is similar to Roy Halladay’s, but the two have more than a few things in common. They each own one American League Cy Young award and have some hope of winning another one this season. Each utterly dominated the National League over a full season or less, and has been impressive but less dominant in the AL East.
Each pitcher is a workhorse, capable of topping 250 innings per season. Halladay has 179 career wins to Sabathia’s 167 (which he accumulated in fewer seasons).
Perhaps most similar were the expectations placed on both pitchers by their teams and fans this October. Both teams are capable of scoring runs in droves, and while Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte pitched very well at times this year, and Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are erstwhile postseason aces, only Sabathia and Halladay gave their teams a palpable edge when the LCS pitching matchups were announced.
Sabathia was knocked around a little in game one, but the bats and the bullpen bailed him out. Halladay pitched better, but was unable to outduel Tim Lincecum and put his Phillies in a hole similar to the one Sabathia’s Yankees would find themselves in three games later.
Wednesday night, it was win or go home for Sabathia, and he didn’t exactly bring it. In six innings, he scattered eleven hits, working in and out of jams with the help of two double plays. As is customary when the big guy pitches, his teammates made it easy for him, scoring seven runs to survive another day.
Thursday night, Halladay took the mound with the same stakes, and much like Sabathia, was something short of vintage Roy. Doc walked two and surrendered six hits, surviving with major assists from Jayson Werth’s right arm and Aubrey Huff’s tin glove.
The similarities may end with the disclosure of Halladay’s groin issue, which had a noticeable effect on Thursday’s result. Still, in a postseaon that’s given us Halladay’s perfect game, Lincecum’s 14-k debut, Matt Cain’s game three gem, and three lights-out shows from Cliff Lee, culminating with a Yankee depantsing for the ages, you can’t fault fans for expecting more out of the defending champs’ aces.
Both teams gladly settled with surviving for one more game. Unfortunately for them, they each need to win two more without another start from their ace.