On Friday night, however, four Yankees relievers bailed Sabathia out and pitched a combined five shutout innings in a 6-5 victory over the Rangers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
The relievers faced 18 hitters and retired 15 of them. That's not including setup man Kerry Wood picking off Ian Kinsler in the eighth inning.
"Our bullpen, we have some good arms down there, and guys that have some experience and know how to pitch," manager Joe Girardi said.
It was a bullpen that hasn't seen action in five days prior to Friday, but one would have never known it. It helped that the relievers pitched in simulated games during the layoff.
"We threw to our hitters at home -- in between series," Wood said. "We tried to stay sharp and face hitters. It's tough. I can't speak for the other guys. I wasn't as sharp as I would have liked to [have been], but I'm not complaining with a zero."
It wasn't that tough for the Yankees' bullpen.
With the Yankees down 5-0, Girardi had to go to his relievers starting in the fifth inning, starting with Joba Chamberlain, who didn't see any action against the Twins in the AL Division Series. He walked Nelson Cruz with one out, but no further damage was done.
To Sabathia, Chamberlain's one inning killed any momentum the Rangers may have had.
"That was huge, especially after I gave up the two-run double [to Michael Young the previous inning]. For Joba to come in and have a shutdown inning [was great]."
Enter Dustin Moseley, who pitched two shutout innings, struck out four batters and picked up his first postseason win. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, Moseley wondered how he was able to get four K's.
"I don't know the last time out I struck out four batters in two innings -- if I ever have," Moseley said. "But I had a good fastball working. I had command of all four of my pitches, so it worked well."
Moseley felt he had good luck on his side because his wife was celebrating her 28th birthday. He also saw his son for the first time in a month the previous day.
"What a great present for her. I got to see my son last night. This has been wonderful," Moseley said.
After pitching his second inning and New York down 5-1, Moseley went in the dugout and told teammate Nick Swisher that he had a feeling the Yankees would make their comeback in the top of the eighth inning, and they did, scoring five runs off five Rangers pitchers to take the one-run lead.
"We ended up doing it," said Moseley. "So I'm looking at Swisher and I said, 'Told you.' He said, 'Yeah that's right.' I don't know why I had that feeling. This lineup doesn't get shutdown. ... It's kind of wishful thinking. I knew we could put up some runs here. Heck, they did it when I came out."
Once the Rangers kept changing pitchers, Wood had a feeling he would enter the game.
"I was looking at their bullpen to see who they had going," he said.
Once New York took the lead, Wood shut down the Rangers in the eighth inning. Kinsler gave Wood some help, however. Kinsler led off with a walk and represented the tying run. Wood received a signal from Girardi to try a pick-off play, and it worked.
"I just got it at the right time. It was a good call," Wood said.
Enter closer Mariano Rivera, who pitched the ninth inning and saved his fourth game of the postseason. Sabathia was grateful that the bullpen picked him up.
"They were huge -- Moseley coming in and shutting them down for two innings, Joba coming after me and shutting them down, Woody throwing a great eighth inning and we have the greatest closer in the world," said Sabathia said. "You can't talk enough about those guys."