But perhaps the Tigers had developed such confidence and swagger that it didn't matter who was standing on the mound against them.
So it was Sabathia, the normally trusty bulldog, who had to feel the wrath of the Tigers on elimination day for his team, an 8-1 loss in Game 4.
"Good team. Dominating pitching," Sabathia said of the Tigers. "Those guys -- you have to give them credit. They pitched great. We didn't match them. We pitched good, but not great. They pitched great. We didn't do it."
Much like the Yankees' offense picked the wrong time to go into a near team-wise slump, Sabathia had the misfortune of turning in one of his worst performances of the season when his team had no margin for error.
Even in defeat, Sabathia stood tall, making no excuses for his performance.
|10/12/2007||ALCS G1||Indians||Red Sox||8||4 1/3||7|
|10/18/2012||ALCS G4||Yankees||Tigers||6||3 2/3||11|
|10/2/2008||NLDS G2||Brewers||Phillies||5||3 2/3||6|
|10/3/2011||ALDS G3||Yankees||Tigers||4||5 1/3||7|
|10/18/2007||ALCS G5||Indians||Red Sox||4||6||10|
"It's definitely disappointing -- embarrassing. That's all I can say," Sabathia said. "Like I said, it's embarrassing to me to be able to come out and not give our team a chance to win. I pride myself on trying to give us a chance, and I didn't do that tonight."
The teams that win at this time of year are the ones who are clicking in all facets and feeding off each other.
The Yankees had the opposite effect, as each slumping hitter seemed to rub off on the other one.
Sabathia was rocked for a season-high 11 hits and six runs (five earned) over 3 2/3 innings. But did it really matter what a big misstep he had?
The way the Yankees performed with the bats, coming up with just two hits, Sabathia would have needed a complete-game shutout to get the win and hand the ball to Andy Pettitte for Game 5.
It was on Sabathia's back -- he pitched two masterpieces in the AL Division Series vs. the Orioles -- that the Yankees got to this round, so there weren't about to be any fingers pointed in his direction.
"I thought he did a pretty good job," said right fielder Nick Swisher. "You can't expect him to go out there and go nine shutout [innings] every time. We rally around our guys even though it's a tough time for all of us. We can walk out of here with our heads high and know we had a great season."
Given the fierce competitor Sabathia is, he wasn't about to walk out with his head held high after such a disappointing showing. He took it hard.
"It's always disappointing when you go out like this, especially the way I pitched tonight -- 10, 11 hits, whatever it was. I didn't pitch well enough," Sabathia said. "Those guys pitched great, like I said. I didn't match them. It [stinks]."
Having been part of a team that won the World Series in 2009, Sabathia knows what a champion looks like. That's what he was seeing across the field in the Tigers.
"You look at the way they pitched," Sabathia said. "[Doug] Fister pitched great, [Max] Scherzer pitched great tonight, [Justin] Verlander is obviously one of the best in the league. You always have a chance to win when you pitch like that."
Meanwhile, Sabathia had a clunker -- producing his worst postseason start since Game 1 of the 2007 ALCS against the Red Sox.
"I was terrible today," Sabathia said. "I didn't make pitches. Changeup was a non factor. Fastball command wasn't good. They put some good at-bats together. It kind of is what it is."
In other words, Sabathia didn't see the need to do much dissection of the particular moments that cost him the game.
"Does it matter? It doesn't matter," Sabathia said. "This is the way I end my season and I'll go out next year and try to be better. It kind of is what it is. I [stunk] at the end. It came down to one game to extend our season and I wasn't able to do that."
While Sabathia might have lost the final game, he hardly carried the burden of a series gone wrong for the Yankees, who were swept in the postseason for the first time since 1980.
"We didn't do our jobs," said Robinson Cano. "You have to give credit to the Tigers. That's all you can do. That's part of the game. You're not going to be great all the time. They did a great job and beat us in four."