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October 27, 2009

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MVP Sabathia to take on Lee

CC Sabathia received a contract from the New York Yankees that matched his mountainous presence on the mound for one big reason: to lead them back to a World Series title.

He's almost there.

Sabathia was picked most valuable player of the American League championship series after two dominant performances.

"From Day 1 of spring training you could tell this was going to be a memorable year for us," Sabathia said.

The towering lefthander pitched eight innings of four-hit ball in cold, blustery conditions to win 4-1 in Game 1. He was equally overpowering in Game 4 in sunny Anaheim, giving up a run and five hits in eight innings - on three days' rest.

The 28-year-old Sabathia's next start will be a tantalizing one - he'll oppose former Cleveland teammate and Cy Young winner Cliff Lee when New York hosts Philadelphia on Wednesday night in the first World Series game at the new US$1.5 billion Yankee Stadium.

Signed to a US$161 million, seven-year deal as the linchpin of the Yankees' US$423.5 million offseason push to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2008, Sabathia has brushed aside the pressure of the postseason from start No. 1.

After tying for the major league lead with 19 wins, he shut down the Minnesota Twins in the opener of the division series and is 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA for the playoffs. The late success came after he'd gone 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five postseason starts with Cleveland and Milwaukee.

The durable ace has struck out 20 in 22 innings and opponents are hitting just .205 against him.

Usually all business on the mound in his baggy pants, Sabathia has shown emotion this October, especially in Game 1 against the Angels when he struck out pinch-hitter Mike Napoli to end the seventh inning.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave Sabathia plenty of rest down the stretch after the Yankees built a big lead in the AL East, and it has paid off in the playoffs.


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