Commentary

Sabathia-Price a rerun? Let's hope so

Ace lefties meet again in stretch run, less than two weeks after dramatic showdown

Updated: September 23, 2010, 11:23 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- In the end, you know it's going to come down to these two guys.

The team that advances to the World Series from the American League will probably do so on the back of either the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia or the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price.

Both are the type of aces you need in order to make a long postseason run and have a legitimate shot to win a championship.

On Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, Sabathia and Price face off for the second time in two weeks as their teams battle for the AL East title. And although you saw the matchup just 10 days ago -- each ace wound up with a no-decision on Sept. 13 despite pitching eight scoreless innings -- you want to see it as often as you can.

It's like a rerun of "Seinfeld." You've seen it over and over, know all the lines, but you still enjoy it every time you see it.

[+] EnlargeCC Sabathia
J. Meric/Getty ImagesCC Sabathia pitched eight scoreless innings on Sept. 13, allowing two hits and fanning nine Rays.

Great pitching in baseball is like that.

Price (17-6, 2.79 ERA) knows the importance of the matchup. Not just on Thursday, but in the future as well.

"Hopefully, we face these guys again at some point this year and we'll see what happens," Price said.

Price, of course, is talking about the American League Championship Series. That's the only place the Yankees and Rays can meet up in the postseason.

Can you imagine these two stud lefties on the hill in Game 7 of the ALCS with everything on the line? Talk about drama and must-see TV.

Sabathia, who is 20-6 with a 3.05 ERA, was a driving force for the Yankees last postseason, when they won the World Series. He was outstanding, earning MVP honors in the ALCS by going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA.

Price is the kid. Yes, he had a taste of the World Series in 2008. But he was a tough arm out of the bullpen back then. Now, Price is at the top of the rotation; whether the Rays get back to the Fall Classic for the second time in three seasons depends on him.

That's why Thursday's game will be so interesting to watch. Plus, with the Rays' victory in Game 3 of this important four-game series, they have a chance to split and leave town with the same margin they trailed when they got here Monday -- just a half-game.

"It's a good pitching matchup," Price said. "It's fun."

Sabathia, who has been one of the best free-agent signings in baseball in the past 15 years, will be ready. He has been since he stepped up on the big stage and in front of the bright lights. And the Rays are on his radar.

"Every game is important right now, especially against these guys," Sabathia said. "So hopefully, I can pitch well and try to do what I did last time."

Best of all, Sabathia has the focus needed to pitch in this kind of game. He's just not going to get caught up in the hype of the pitching matchup. "I'm not facing him," Sabathia said of Price. "I'm facing their lineup. I look to try to go out and put up zeroes and try to get us a win."

It should come as no surprise that Price shares the same kind of focus as Sabathia. For him, it's more about the Yankees, not Sabathia.

"They have a tough lineup," he said. "I don't really do too much worrying about him. I've got one through nine that can do a whole lot of damage. That's what I'm focused on."

The other thing the two have in common is that they are both black left-handed pitchers, rare in the majors. That is a reason they have a bond, even though they wear different uniforms.

A few years ago, the pair talked in the outfield before a game and exchanged numbers. They aren't BFFs, but they text a couple times a year. "Whenever we can talk, we talk," Sabathia said. "He's a good kid and I'm just happy for him he's doing so well."

Except, of course, when they face each other. When that happens, it's a winner-takes-all affair, one no one should miss -- even if it's a rerun.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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