NEW YORK — The Yankees have the right guy going to the mound. No question about that.
But did CC Sabathia learn anything watching Josh Beckett?
More to the point, can he become Josh Beckett?
The Yankees aren't quite to the point where they need outright miracles, but after suffering a third straight pounding at the hands of the white-hot Rangers, they do need Sabathia to work magic in Game 5.
Nothing is tougher for a baseball team that is trying to do something unprecedented or unexpected than to get its fourth victory in a playoff series. And no pitcher in recent history has been tougher to do it against than Beckett.
He took Sammy Sosa and Carlos Zambrano to school in Game 5 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, positioning the Cubs for the Bartman Game and other forms of torture. He won Game 5 of the 2007 American League Championship Series for the Red Sox, beating Sabathia, to extend the series and force the Indians to win one of the next two games in Boston, which they couldn't do.
Left-hander C.J. Wilson, in his first season as a big-league starter, faces Sabathia on Wednesday in Game 5. He will be riding an incredible wave of energy when he goes to the mound.
The 10-3 victory Tuesday night, when Giants discard Bengie Molina delivered a three-run homer after Joe Girardi walked David Murphy to get to him, was the Rangers' sixth of these playoffs, all by margins of at least four runs. They bounced back from a bullpen collapse in Game 1 against the Yankees to win 7-2 and 8-0, giving them dominance to the tune of 25-5 in the last three games.
It's on Sabathia, a 21-game winner in the regular season and a playoff workhorse, to stop the Rangers from clinching the first pennant in the 50-year history of the franchise, born under a bad sign as the expansion Washington Senators.
Since beating Rays ace David Price in Game 5 of the division series, the Rangers have been playing on house money. Their hitters seem to become more confident, more difficult to face, as every inning goes by.
Consider this: They are hitting .313 with runners in scoring position, including a 13-for-29 showing in the last three games; the other seven teams involved in the playoffs have hit a combined .180 in those situations.
Playoff pressure? Not for these guys.
"It's a young team. They don't have a lot of playoff experience, but it's a veteran lineup,'' Sabathia said. "They are good, they can hit, they have a lot of power up and down. You can't expect them to be nervous or anything like that.''
However, a masterfully pitched game by Sabathia could send an anxious group of Rangers home for a restless night before trying to win one more game before their home fans.
They will know what it is to be nervous if they find themselves clinging to a late lead in the sixth or seventh game, using the same group of relievers who along with Wilson couldn't protect a 5-0 lead in the series opener Friday.
To avoid this fate, they must beat Sabathia. It's the only thing they haven't done so far.