PHILADELPHIA -- Like he has done so many times this season on smaller stages along the way, ace CC Sabathia put the Yankees on his back, and the big lefty shouldered the weight.
Pitching on three days' rest for the second time this postseason, Sabathia pitched in and out of jams and kept a threatening Phillies offense stalled for most of the night, as the Yankees went on to secure a pivotal 7-4 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night.
"Does it impact teammates? It's got to," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Sabathia's unselfishness. "That type of stuff, without a doubt, has to rub off on everybody, because [it says], 'Hey, I'm all in. Are you, too?'"
Just three days removed from a 113-pitch effort in Game 1's loss, Sabathia made it through 6 2/3 innings -- and 103 pitches -- in a gritty, inspired outing that helped the Yankees take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"This is a very, very tough lineup to navigate through," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He gave up the run in the first, and then he kind of spread out what he did. And I thought he gave a gutsy performance."
But as admirable as Sunday's outing was, it wasn't without some heart-stopping moments for Yankees fans, particularly when Sabathia put Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino on base with no outs in the fifth inning.
With New York clinging to a two-run lead, Sabathia induced back-to-back infield popups and sent Jayson Werth down swinging to escape the jam without allowing a run. Sabathia exited after allowing a Chase Utley homer with two outs in the seventh, cutting the Yankees' lead to 4-3.
A.J. hopes to follow CC's lead
The numbers haven't been very good for starters pitching on three or fewer days' rest in the postseason since it expanded to three rounds in 1995. But CC Sabathia has done it twice this postseason, giving A.J. Burnett hope for Monday's Game 5.
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
"CC's been our horse all year," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter. "He was outstanding again."
A veteran of 13 postseasons, Jeter never doubted that Sabathia would take the ball on short rest for Sunday's Game 4.
"I don't think he had a choice," Jeter said, with a grin. "I [always] knew he was pitching."
Jeter's confidence is a testament to the level of respect Sabathia has earned around the Yankees' clubhouse. The American League Championship Series MVP, Sabathia's 36 1/3 innings in this postseason are the most for a Yankee in a single playoff year, with the previous record (34 1/3 frames) held by teammate Andy Pettitte in 2003.
Whether Sabathia is pitching on short rest, in adverse weather or with a pitch count in the 120s, the Yankees' ace has made one thing clear: he signed with New York to win a World Series, and he will stop at nothing to get there.
"Everybody sees what other people do and the sacrifices they make, and how they are stepping up and doing everything they possibly can for the betterment of the team," Cashman said of Sabathia. "And it's sincerely genuine. No one can question that.
"[Sabathia] is not the type of person who would come in [to the clubhouse] and say, 'Hey, you guys have to do the same thing.' He just demands the most of himself, and I think there's no doubt that everybody can take notice of that."
"I was just trying to get out there and battle," Sabathia said of his outing. "And [I was trying to] do everything I could to keep our team in the game and try to get a win."
And like he's done so many times before, the Yankees' winningest pitcher guided his team to a victory, just one "W" short of an elusive World Series title.
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.