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Sabathia is perfect fit for Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- The changes keep coming for CC Sabathia.
He's facing a new league after winning the AL Cy Young Award last season, his third child is due in the postseason and the spoils of free agency loom shortly after that.
Yet, the 6-foot-7 lefty hasn't wavered since coming to the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade from Cleveland last month. He's been nearly perfect and is a win away from matching Doyle Alexander's 9-0 run for the 1987 Tigers as the best start by a pitcher who switched teams midseason in the last 90 years.
"I'm fitting in, then going 8-0," Sabathia said. "I think that was the biggest thing, coming in and getting used to what goes on in the clubhouse. That's made all the difference, helping me relax and be out there and pitch."
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin thought he'd get a top-notch starter when he traded for Sabathia, but the pitcher has exceeded even the steepest expectations.
"He's won every start, what can you say?" Melvin said with a laugh. "He hasn't felt the pressure to win every start, he's just done it. ... It feels like he's been with us for six years."
The lone change from Carsten Charles Sabathia was his decision to drop the periods from his name and go by "CC" when he joined the Brewers.
Forget those dots. Try exclamation points. Lots and lots of them.
Sabathia has thrown an NL-best five complete games in nine starts -- he had a no-decision against the Cubs on July 28 -- after a career-high 130 pitches in a 9-3 win over Houston Monday.
The two earned runs in that game ballooned his ERA to 1.60 since leaving the Indians in a trade for four minor-league prospects July 7.
"I'm just trying to go out and keep us in games, and help the team win," said Sabathia, who also drove in two runs, going 2-for-3 at the plate. "We score a lot of runs, and I know if I can keep it close, at some point in the game we're going to score runs."
Sabathia has energized an already hungry fan base that hasn't seen the Brewers make the postseason since 1982, before young Milwaukee power hitters Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun were born.
"When you go out and make a move like that for a guy like Sabathia who is last year's Cy Young Award winner and a guy who is a proven, big-time winner, if that's not an impact on your team and the town you're playing in, nothing is," said Hall of Fame announcer Bob Uecker, who acknowledges there will be some heartache with the fans if Sabathia moves on.
Milwaukee has sold out every game since trading for Sabathia, and while the Brewers haven't gained ground on the Cubs, who lead the NL Central by five games, they led the wild card chase by 2 1/2 games over St. Louis entering Tuesday's play.
"He's not a vocal leader, but watching him pitch, the guys, the players, his teammates enjoy watching him pitch as much as I do, as much as the fans do," Melvin said. "The one thing we're learning is that it does take a No. 1 starter pitcher like him and a No. 1 or 2 type like Ben Sheets. It takes quality pitching to stay in pennant races."
Sabathia's time in Milwaukee could be short with his next contract likely in the realm of the six-year, $137.5 million deal Johan Santana signed in the offseason with the Mets. Melvin concedes that at least they'll get the first crack to make an offer.
"Not many of those guys sign," Melvin said. "They've got to play the market game, and we understand that. We understood it going in."
That's what makes Sabathia all the more intriguing. He's a rental who has taken a real liking to his new teammates and goes out of his way to show his appreciation.
"He could just sit there and go, 'Well, I'm going to be here for three months, I'm here to pitch, I'm here to win games and that's it,"' Brewers starter Manny Parra said. "But he's a great teammate, and I think a lot of people enjoy having him around."
Maybe Parra most of all. As the only other left-handed starter on the staff, Parra acknowledges he's pestered Sabathia with questions to the point he's worried about becoming a nuisance.
But when self-doubt crept into Parra's mind following a couple of rough recent outings, Sabathia squashed it.
"He told me, 'Keeping doing what you're doing. You're going to be fine.' That's always good to hear," Parra said.
Milwaukee has made a habit of using Sabathia a lot on the field, too. He's averaging just under 113 pitches per start for the Brewers, including games of 122, 124 and 130.
Brewers manager Ned Yost said he's letting Sabathia and Sheets go longer into games because he won't force his rotation to throw every five days down the stretch.
Instead, they'll stay on a strict, five-man rotation that includes Jeff Suppan, Parra and Dave Bush that'll give the pair of aces a few extra days off.
Plus, it's hard to argue when your big ace keeps throwing 95 mph, like he did to five-time All-Star Lance Berkman on his next-to-last pitch before getting the Astros slugger to ground out with the bases loaded.
"It's not that big of a deal," he said. "I asked Ned if I could go back out, and he let me."