Now, with the series tied 1-1 going back to Detroit, his next start may determine the Yankees' future in the 2011 playoffs.
Sabathia, who had his Game 1 start rained out on Friday, will get a second chance at his marque matchup against Justin Verlander in Game 3. Yankees' starter Ivan Nova was able to secure the Game 1 victory for New York, but Freddy Garcia failed to follow as Detroit tied the series.
In two starts against Detroit in the regular season, Sabathia went 0-1 with an ERA of 4.15. However, despite giving up a home run to Delmon Young in the first inning, Sabathia was cruising through his Game 1 start with four strikeouts and a 20-7 K/BB ratio.
Sabathia has never been dominant against the Tigers in his career, posting a 4.54 ERA in 32 starts and a 4.30 ERA at Comerica Park. Girardi decided to start Sabathia on the road rather then rush him back for Game 2, meaning Sabathia will have no "short rest" excuse should he fail against Detroit.
A Yankees' win in Game 3 would give them the upper hand in a five game series, but losing may hand the Tigers the series all together. Sabathia would be unable to start Game 5 if the series is tied 2-2, and Girardi named AJ Burnett his Game 4 starter regardless of the series score.
Burnett had another forgettable year with the Yankees in 2011, mostly because of his performance on the road. Burnett posted a 4-5 record and 6.28 ERA on the road this season, allowing hitters to hit .287 against him with a 1.63 WHIP.
Girardi decided to go with Burnett because of his turnaround in September, but he still only had an ERA 4.30 in six starts. The other choice was Phil Hughes, who hasn't made a start since early September.
The pressure is all on CC to perform well in Game 3. If he pitches at a high level and gets the Yankees the win, they have a much better chance of winning the series, either in Game 4 or going back to the Bronx in Game 5. However, a loss from CC may be the figurative white flag for the Yankees in the ALDS.