Jacobs Field celebration or trip to Boston?
CLEVELAND -- It takes a big man to own up to failure, and there's been no shortage of accountability in the American League Championship Series.Red Sox starter Curt Schilling made the most noteworthy mea culpa, dropping by the interview room unannounced Saturday night in Boston and ripping himself for coming up small in a big game. Schilling's personal catharsis regarding his Game 2 performance came a night after Cleveland ace C.C. Sabathia chided himself for a failure to challenge hitters and pitch with the requisite aggressiveness in Game 1.
I feel fresh. My arm feels good. I really can't point to that and say it's the reason why I haven't been good these last two games.
--Indians Game 5 starter C.C. Sabathia
The question is, which Sabathia will show Thursday night in Game 5? The hard-throwing, strike-dispensing machine who went 19-7 to insert himself in the thick of the Cy Young Award race, or the tentative C.C. who has a 10.61 ERA in two postseason starts against New York and Boston?Sabathia's October stat line looks like something out of the Daniel Cabrera catalogue. He's thrown 106 strikes and 93 balls and lasted a total of 9 1/3 innings in two appearances, putting lots of strain on a Cleveland bullpen that's accustomed to kicking back and enjoying the view when he's on the slab. Naturally, several theories are making the rounds for Sabathia's travails. Fatigue, for starters. Sabathia led the major leagues with 241 innings and ranked sixth in number of pitches thrown during the regular season. Factor in the playoffs, and Sabathia now leads the pack with 3,781 pitches thrown -- one more than Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs. Sabathia has declined to use his onerous workload as an excuse for his lack of results, and he refused to take the bait again Wednesday. "I feel fresh," he said. "My arm feels good. I really can't point to that and say it's the reason why I haven't been good these last two games." Other possible explanations: (1) Sabathia is letting his emotions get the best of him, (2) he's too caught up in trying to make the perfect pitch rather than just letting the ball fly and (3) it didn't help that he had to cope with Bruce Froemming's minuscule strike zone during the Division Series. During Wednesday's workout at Jacobs Field, Sabathia focused on details. He concentrated on staying taller in his delivery and throwing the ball downhill, after straying from that approach in Boston. Sabathia certainly didn't seem uptight when he entered the Cleveland clubhouse shortly before batting practice, plopped down on a couch and caught a few minutes of the Rob Schneider comedy "Benchwarmers" on a big-screen TV. The Indians say Sabathia, 27, is a different guy from the young pitcher who once got flustered by inconsistent umpiring or a broken-bat single. Nevertheless, catcher Victor Martinez will be monitoring Sabathia closely and is likely to make a mound visit or two if he sees Sabathia's heart pounding through his jersey. "In the past, anything small could have taken him out of his game," Martinez said. "But it's not an issue for him or the team anymore. He knows what he needs to do to get out of jams now. He's definitely 100 percent mature as a pitcher." Still, there's such a thing as a "statement" game, and if Sabathia is going to elevate his status, now is the time. He'll be taking on 20-game winner Josh Beckett before 44,000 supportive fans, with the added incentive of saving the Indians a trip to Boston -- where the mood can always shift from sunny to panic-stricken very quickly for an opponent.
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