NEW YORK -- The captain stood alone, snug in the corner of the New York Yankees' humongous clubhouse on Sunday morning. His ears listened to a question, while his eyes studied the Doppler radar on the computer screen in his locker.
When asked what will separate the 2010 Yankees from the pack, Jeter gave the topic his full attention, looking directly at his inquisitor.
"You are not going to do well in the playoffs if you don't have pitching," Jeter said. "That's the bottom line."
That is why -- bottom line -- CC Sabathia is the most important Yankee.
After another six scoreless innings on Sunday, Sabathia is possibly on his way to winning the AL Cy Young. He is 17-5 with a 3.02 ERA. His 17 wins are tied with the Colorado Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez and the St. Louis Cardinals' Adam Wainwright for the most in baseball.
In his past 20 starts at Yankee Stadium, Sabathia is undefeated. He is 15-0 in those starts with a 2.17 ERA.
"It is an ace being an ace," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
A case could be made for closer Mariano Rivera as the most important Yankee, but with the rest of the club's starters facing questions, how many postseason chances would a Sabathia-less Rivera get? How long would the Yankees even last?
Right now, the Yankees' rotation is like a wobbly Weeble. Sabathia won't let it fall down.
So Robinson Cano can nail a grand slam and drive in a career-best six RBIs on Sunday, and the most important news of the day is that Sabathia remained healthy.
The only thing that can seemingly stop the smoothly relentless Sabathia is rain. He pitched only six innings on Sunday because the nearly one-hour rain delay forced him out of the game after 76 scoreless pitches, which included eight strikeouts. In Sabathia's previous 15 starts, he went at least seven innings.
Sabathia is unbelievably good at home. When he next starts in the Bronx, he will be trying to tie Whitey Ford's Yankees record of 21 consecutive home starts without a loss. In that same start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Sabathia will look to tie Ron Guidry and Johnny Allen for most consecutive home victories as he goes for No. 16.
"The consistency is unbelievable," Girardi said.
Sabathia is not thinking about that, or the Cy Young, or anything else, except October.
"I'd rather win the World Series than win the Cy Young," Sabathia said.
It is hard to imagine the Yankees winning the World Series without No. 52 leading the way. Right now, the Yankees don't know what they have in Andy Pettitte (groin), A.J. Burnett (head), Phil Hughes (youth) and Javy Vazquez (who knows?).
But they have Sabathia -- and maybe that is enough to fulfill Jeter's bottom line.
GAME NOTES: Cano's six RBIs were a career high. He nailed his grand slam after the Mariners intentionally walked Mark Teixeira. It is the fourth time Teixiera has been intentionally walked to load the bases this season. It was the third time a Yankee had hit a grand slam. Alex Rodriguez hit the other two. … Speaking of A-Rod, he is not speaking. Rodriguez, who was put on the disabled list on Saturday with his calf strain, has not spoken to the media since the move. By the way, the Yankees are now 12-0 when A-Rod doesn't play. … Nick Swisher made two big defensive plays. In the fifth, with the score just 1-0 Yankees and the rain threatening, he fired a one hopper from right to nail Franklin Gutierrez at the plate. Then in garbage time, he played first base and made a nice stop on a hard-hit grounder. … The Yankees have 10 grand slams this season, tying the club record set in 1987. … The Yankees are in Toronto on Monday. Ivan Nova makes his starting debut. He will be opposed by Brandon Morrow (9-6, 4.45 ERA).