Thank you, God, for giving me the ability to come out on this particular night. Thank you for letting me come out on this mound in front of 40,000 people and get to do what I love to do and use this ability that you gave me for something good in this world. Amen.
"Once I do that," he says, "it's game time."
And at that very moment, when he climbs back up on the mound, looking for another fight to win, another ass to kick, with neither room to fail nor fear of that outcome, Jonathan Papelbon is exactly where he wants to be.
LATE & GREAT
A GALLERY OF OCTOBER DIFFERENCE MAKERS
MOMENTS BEFORE C.C. Sabathia's first career postseason start, in Game 3 of the 2001 Division Series between the Indians and the Mariners, Roberto Alomar approached the 21-year-old lefty on the mound and said, "Relax. We've got your back, kid." The then Indians second baseman wasn't lying, as the Tribe scored 17 runs in a win, only to lose the series in five games. Six years later the kid is a Cy Young front-runner and a big reason why the Indians are in the postseason for the first time since '01. "Back then I was just a nervous rookie along for the ride," says Sabathia. "Now, hopefully, I'm the guy the team counts on for a win." He has, in fact, become the Guy in the AL; at week's end, he led the league in innings (234); was tied for second in wins (18) with teammate Fausto Carmona, John Lackey, Justin Verlander and Chien-Ming Wang; and was fourth in strikeouts (205). A 6'7", 290-pound lefthander with a high-90s fastball, Sabathia is the kind of power pitcher who can dominate a short series in October, but it has been his mastery of the slow ball that has turned him into an elite pitcher. "I've finally learned how to throw my off-speed pitches in different counts," he says, "and my control is better than ever." Indeed, with only 36 walks through Sunday, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is the second best by a lefty starter since 1901.