Want to get a good read on how CC Sabathia is going to fare, going for the clinching win tonight against the Blue Jays?
Watch how Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells fares against him, the first couple of times through.
The Blue Jays may be the cure for what's been ailing Sabathia lately -- his ERA is 5.06 in his last four starts and his average fastball velocity has dropped a tick or two. Their current roster, via matchup stats on Baseball-Reference.com is hitting just .175 against him over a sampling of 163 plate appearances. There's no one whose past numbers against him are threatening in any way.
Vernon Wells vs Yankees
Sabathia has pitched against the Blue Jays once in each of the three previous seasons, winning each time, with a 2.57 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21 innings. Last season, he beat Toronto at the Rogers Centre, allowing just two runs and five hits over eight innings.
So why is the Wells-Sabathia matchup important?
Because Wells owns the Yankees this season, but Sabathia owns Wells, so something will have to give.
Wells' home run last night gave him seven against the Yankees this season. Those home runs and his 19 RBIs in 15 games are the most against the Yankees of any player this season (a stat admittedly skewed to favoring division rivals, but noteworthy nonetheless, since he's averaging 1.27 RBIs per game).
This is nothing new. The only time a Blue Jays hitter has had more than 19 RBIs in a season against the Yankees was when Wells had 20 in 2002.
Wells has been around long that his 28 home runs match Carlos Delgado for most by a Blue Jay against the Yankees. In games in which Wells homers against the Yankees, the Blue Jays are 19-7, including 6-1 this season.
That includes two walk-off home runs (including one against Mariano Rivera), making him one of only nine players in major league history with multiple walk-off homers against the Yankees (Harmon Killebrew leads all with three).
Wells is hitting .317 against the Yankees this season, with an on-base percentage of .388 and a slugging percentage of .733. Much of that damage has come at the Rogers Centre, where he's hitting .448 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 29 at-bats.
Here's where Sabathia comes to the rescue for the struggling Yankees staff. He and Wells have gone head-to-head in 10 different games, totaling 32 plate appearances. Wells has just six hits and one walk. He's 1-for-his-last-10 against Sabathia
Of the two dozen left-handed pitchers that Wells has faced at least 15 times, the three best at keeping him off base are Johan Santana, Joe Saunders, and Sabathia.
Earlier, I mentioned that the first couple turns were the ones of importance. That's because in his first two trips through each game against Sabathia, Wells is 2-for-20.
Be forewarned of one thing though. If the game hangs in the balance late, Wells has been a pest in Sabathia's side before.
Sabathia is 8-3 against the Blue Jays for his career. In two of those games, Wells hit home runs that were of great significance to the outcome. So even the Yankees ace is not immune.