What was once a 10-game lead in the American League East is now down to 2 1/2 games for the New York Yankees. On Friday, CC Sabathia tries to get the Yankees back into the win column when he returns from the disabled list to face the Cleveland Indians in the opener of a three-game set at Progressive Field.
Sabathia has been out since Aug. 8 with soreness in his left elbow and his return couldn't come at a better time for the Yankees, who were just swept by the Chicago White Sox and have lost five of seven to open the door for the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays in the division.
"I don't think I'm going to go jump off a bridge or anything like that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "As I've said, it's baseball."
The losses in Chicago capped a brutal 20 games in 20 days stretch for the Yanks, who were 11-9 during the grind.
"Playing every day is tough enough, you get 20 in a row, it's tough but like I said, most teams do it at some point," said shortstop Derek Jeter, who leads the majors with 169 hits. "You don't like it, but you have to do it."
Sabathia went through a 38-pitch session Tuesday and proclaimed himself ready to return after his second DL stint. He had won his last two starts and five straight decisions before being shut down and is 12-3 on the year with a 3.56 ERA.
"It's a big relief that I can go out and throw all my pitches and not be hindered by anything, or feel like I can't throw (a) pitch because it might hurt," Sabathia said. "I have none of that, and today just confirmed that. I feel good about going out there on Friday."
Sabathia, who won an AL Cy Young Award for the Indians back in 2007, is 2-1 in five starts against his former team with a 3.03 ERA.
Cleveland will counter with right-handed rookie Corey Kluber, who is 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA. Kluber lost his second straight start on Saturday in Oakland, as he gave up four unearned runs and walked three batters in five innings.
Kluber will be trying to help an Indians team that has lost eight in a row and 21 of their last 25.
"It's never been done in the history of the game where 25 guys are released," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "They should relax. If one guy is going to go, it's going to be me, not them."
The Yankees swept the Tribe in the Bronx in June.