NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia left it all on the field, but it wasn't enough for the New York Yankees, who lost a lot more than the fourth game of the American League Championship Series in an 8-3 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
In what could have been his last appearance in pinstripes, Sabathia's knee buckled and his shoulder seemed to give out after he hurled his third pitch to George Springer while trying to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning.
Sabathia, who along with outfielder Brett Gardner is one of the two remaining members of the 2009 World Series championship team, limped off the field with tears in his eyes. He exited alongside head trainer Steve Donohue, serenaded by a standing ovation from the Yankees' faithful.
It might have been the last time the 39-year-old left-hander, who dealt with chronic right knee problems all season and most recently a sore left shoulder that kept him off the AL Division Series roster, would throw a pitch at what has been his home ballpark for over a decade. Sabathia announced in February that 2019 would be his 19th and final season in the majors.
"[CC] leaves it all on the field. I don't know the severity of what's going on with him, but you can never say that man never gave his all," outfielder Aaron Judge said. "Every single time he went out there, you had to rip the ball or rip his jersey off to get that man off the mound. He got everything out of that arm; that's a warrior right there. That's why he's been a leader of this team for so many years, and that's why he has so much respect around the game, and it was tough to see; he left it all out there."
"I played against CC longer than I've played with him so I know the respect that opposing teams have for him," Britton said. "He's done it in the game, but obviously off the field, too. He's really respected throughout the game, and guys know the type of career he's had."
Sabathia entered in the eighth inning to face his second batter of the postseason after reliever Adam Ottavino gave up a leadoff double to Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel reached on a fielding error by first baseman DJ LeMahieu. The inning unraveled with a second fielding error by infielder Gleyber Torres, a hit batsman and, just when Sabathia looked to get out of the inning against Springer, the injury happened.
LeMahieu, who had an uncharacteristic two-error game for the first time in his career, had to hold back his emotions in talking about Sabathia coming off the mound.
"Real tough. It was a tough night, then that happened. I feel for C," he said. "From my perspective, this year in particular he's given it everything he's got, and I know he's pitched through a lot, and it was tough to watch."
Said outfielder Aaron Hicks: "It's tough man, he's a great person, a great player. He's gonna be a Hall of Famer. To see a guy like that go out like that is, is not the way you want to see it. He means a lot to this team, a lot to his organization, and for him to go out like that, it's not something you want."
Of the many things that befell the Yankees on Thursday night, their defensive mistakes proved costly against an Astros team that did everything right.
It was one thing for the Yankees to lose, and another one to lose in such an excruciating manner. The Yankees committed four errors, two of them in that eighth inning, the fourth time in franchise history they've had four errors in a postseason game, and the first since Game 2 of the 1976 ALCS (five errors).
And while Yankees' pitchers did give up two three-run home runs, one by Springer off starter Masahiro Tanaka and one by shortstop Carlos Correa off usually unfailing reliever Chad Green, the offense had another subpar performance.
The Yankees might have opened the ALCS with a bang, but they are close to finishing it with a whimper.
Their offense, which averaged 5.4 runs per game at home during the regular season, fifth best in the AL, combined for four runs over the past two games at Yankee Stadium. When including the two runs in their 3-2 loss at Minute Maid Park in Game 2, the Yankees have scored a total of six runs in the past three games of the series.
The Yankees' first and only win of this ALCS came in Game 1, when they scored seven runs, which they haven't been close to since.
"You got to have a short memory in baseball, especially after a game like that," Judge said. "That's the biggest thing. We can't sit around here and mope around about this game or the past couple of days, we have to refocus and refuel and get ready for the game tomorrow."
With their season on the line and Houston holding a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees will have lefty James Paxton versus Astros ace Justin Verlander on the mound for a do-or-die Game 5. Paxton told ESPN that Sabathia would be his inspiration when he takes the mound Friday.
"Every time he's on the mound, he gives us everything he's got, and that's what he did tonight. CC has had an amazing career, and it was too bad to see him get hurt like that," he said. "But it's also just a testament to just the heart he has for this team, going out there and giving us everything he's got until the last pitch."
"I have to go out there and do my thing," Paxton added. "I have to attack these guys and go to battle for my team, and give everything out there, just like CC did."