New York Yankees southpaw CC Sabathia is in the twilight of his remarkable career, but that’s not stopping him from making some baseball history.
The 17-year veteran opened Thursday’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays by reaching a significant milestone thanks to a pair of first-inning strikeouts. Sabathia’s inning-ending strikeout of Jose Bautista was the 2,774th of his stellar career, moving him past former All-Star southpaw Frank Tanana for the fourth-most strikeouts by a left-hander in baseball history.
Sabathia reached fourth place on this list in just 17 major-league seasons, despite throwing over 1,000 fewer innings than Tanana did over his entire 21-year career.
In 6 1/3 innings Thursday, Sabathia gave up just one run while striking out seven Blue Jays, running his career strikeout total to 2,779.
It’s entirely possible that the 36-year-old Sabathia could catch Lolich, the former Detroit Tigers star, for the third-most strikeouts by a left-hander by the end of this season, if not next year. Still, even if Sabathia goes on to pitch for 20 seasons, third place is likely as high as he’ll rise on this list, given that the top two names – Hall of Famers Carlton and Johnson, each of whom can stake a legitimate claim to being the greatest lefty ever – both finished with well above 4,000 career strikeouts and rank in the top five of all time.
The possibility of Sabathia joining Johnson and Carlton as one of only three southpaws to record 3,000 career strikeouts remains a very real possibility. ZiPs projects Sabathia to record another 77 strikeouts in 2017, meaning he’d finish the season with 123; assuming that pace continues into 2018 – and Sabathia chooses to return for an 18th season – he’ll almost assuredly reach the magical 3,000 mark at some point next year.
Sabathia, who broke in with the Cleveland Indians and also briefly pitched in Milwaukee before joining the Yankees in 2009, entered Thursday’s game as baseball’s active strikeout leader by a wide margin.