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Yankees' fate rests on Sabathia fastball

William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER/US Presswire

CC Sabathia is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last five starts dating to the regular season.Rain was the winner on Wednesday, postponing Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. The series resumes on Thursday (4 ET on ESPN Radio & Fox) with the Detroit Tigers trying to become the first team in 32 years to sweep the New York Yankees in a postseason series.

The Kansas City Royals in the 1980 ALCS are the last team to sweep the Yankees. New York has gone 36 straight postseason series without getting swept since, the longest such streak in baseball history. They haven’t lost four straight postseason games in a single postseason since the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.

With their backs against the wall, the Yankees give the ball to CC Sabathia in hopes of extending the series. Sabathia has won seven of his eight postseason decisions since joining the Yankees in 2009.

CC Sabathia Postseason Career

In order to be successful, Sabathia will have to do something that not many have been able to do: slow down Miguel Cabrera, who has at least one hit in each of his 16 career championship series games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest hitting streak in championship series history.

Sabathia’s best chance to limit the Tigers’ slugger is to challenge him with the fastball. Cabrera is hitting .208 during the 2012 postseason on at-bats ending in heaters. Against off-speed pitches, Cabrera is hitting a MLB-best .571 with a pair of doubles.

For the Tigers, Max Scherzer takes the mound looking to replicate his performance against the Yankees in last season’s ALDS. In that Game 2 win, Scherzer allowed no runs and two hits in six innings. Yankees hitters were 0-for-8 with three strikeouts against his off-speed pitches in the game.

Max Scherzer

ScherzerExpect more of the same on Thursday, as the Athletics went 2-for-15 with six strikeouts against Scherzer off-speed pitches in this season's division series. The Yankees are hitting .145 against non-fastballs during the 2012 playoffs with 36 strikeouts and only five extra-base hits. Unfortunately for New York, that’s only a small part of the problem.

According to Elias, the Yankees enter Game 4 with franchise-worsts in batting average (.200), on-base percentage (.265) and strikeouts per game (8.9) in a single postseason of at least seven games. Their 2.6 runs per game are the fewest among all such teams since the 1972 Oakland Athletics (2.4).