DETROIT — CC Sabathia's wild night has the New York Yankees on the brink of elimination.
Sabathia matched his playoff high with six walks and Derek Jeter struck out with two runners on for the final out in the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Monday night that put New York in a 2-1 hole in the best-of-five AL division series.
"I put us in a bad spot," Sabathia said somberly. "The next time I get the ball, I'll try to go out and try to help us win."
That might not be until next year.
The AL East champions are counting on a shaky A.J. Burnett in Game 4 at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. Burnett, who was 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in the regular season, was pushed into a postseason start only because Sabathia's outing in Game 1 was suspended because of rain.
"I feel good about what A.J. is going to do for us," manager Joe Girardi said.
Sabathia was given an early 2-0 lead but fell short in the matchup of aces, Part 2.
New York scored two runs in the first against Justin Verlander before the MVP candidate shut out the potent lineup over the next five innings with 100 mph fastballs and knee-buckling breaking pitches.
"Verlander was a handful," Alex Rodriguez said. "He's always a handful."
The Yankees mounted a rally for the second straight game against closer Jose Valverde in the ninth and fell short. On Sunday, Robinson Cano grounded out with runners on first and second to seal the setback.
This time Jeter struck out with two on, and the captain walked away from home plate shaking his head.
"I feel good about Jeter whenever he's up there in those situations because he's been there so many times," Girardi said.
The five-time World Series champion, who became the first Yankees player to reach 3,000 hits in July, has made a career out of coming through in the clutch, but he couldn't deliver in his latest opportunity.
"If I didn't swing at it, it would've been a strike anyway," Jeter said.
A banged-up Rodriguez, meanwhile, and many of his teammates were no match for Verlander during much of the game.
A-Rod had an RBI groundout out to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the first, but finished 0 for 2 with two walks and fell to 0 for 10 in the series. The three-time MVP, nagged by knee and thumb injuries, barely hit better than .200 during the final three months of the regular season.
"My confidence is always there," Rodriguez insisted. "I'm ready to go."
Girardi has said he's not looking to change his lineup, so it seems unlikely he would do what his predecessor, Joe Torre, did against Detroit in Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS when Torre dropped the slumping star to eighth in the order.
Rodriguez was given the green light to swing on a 3-0 pitch from Verlander in the eighth and weakly hit a foul into the seats behind him. A-Rod then swung and missed on the next pitch and fouled off a pitch that whizzed by at 101 mph before wisely taking a high-and-inside pitch to draw a walk.
Mark Teixeira also has struggled. He was 0 for 4 on Monday and is 1 for 11 in the series.
Free passes were what doomed Sabathia.
The big lefty didn't take the loss – Rafael Soriano did after giving up a tiebreaking homer to Delmon Young in the seventh – but the $161 million ace struggled to get the ball over the plate.
He lasted just 5 1-3 innings and issued six walks – one intentional – while allowing seven hits and four runs. He had three strikeouts and threw one wild pitch, with many more that were in the dirt or way off target.
"I actually thought he made a lot of good pitches tonight and I thought the zone was a small zone," Girardi said. "No disrespect to anyone, but that's what I thought."
Sabathia, though, refused to make excuses about the way plate umpire Gerry Davis called the game.
"I've never been one to look at who's calling balls and strikes," Sabathia said. "It's up to me to get guys out."
The last time Sabathia, who can opt out of his contract after this season, was that wild in the playoffs was Oct. 4, 2007, when he was pitching for the Cleveland Indians against the Yankees.
Sabathia's control was so out of whack that he even struggled to connect with catcher Russell Martin on one of his intentional-walk tosses.
"I just couldn't make pitches when I needed to," he said.
The Yankees were planning on their ace pitching Game 1 and Game 4, if necessary, but rain suspended his first start after 1 1/2 innings.
Plan B puts Burnett on the mound and no one rooting for New York is excited about that.
Burnett signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract during the Yankees' blockbuster offseason in which they spent $423.5 million two years ago to add him, Sabathia and Teixeira.
The right-hander hasn't lived up to his end of the bargain, but he has a chance to provide an instant dividend if he can help the Yankees avoid getting eliminated in the Motor City.
"I'm not going to go out and try to prove anything," Burnett said. "I'm going to go out and try to win a ballgame."