A change of scenery can do wonders for a career and no one has embodied that in baseball more this season than CC Sabathia. The reigning Cy Young winner in the American League was struggling to find meaning in his walk year, pitching for a last place team that he knew wasn’t going to sign him to a lucrative deal. All the while, one of the game’s most talented pitchers was watching as his free agent value was plummeting. Now, on a rental with the contending Milwaukee Brewers, Sabathia has become a new man and is throwing like he did all last year when he led the Indians to a division title and one game away from the World Series. In doing so, he’s given his new team a tremendous lift and earning himself considerable leverage for contract talks in the offseason.
Sabathia was electric last night, throwing his third straight complete game to lead the surging Brewers to their third straight win over the Cardinals on the road. No Brewer has thrown 27 straight innings in three starts since Cal Eldred in 1994. Sabathia had a no-hitter going through 5 2/3 innings before allowing Brendan Ryan to get on. Later in the sixth, Sabathia worked his way out of trouble, retiring Albert Pujols on a lazy fly ball during a crucial sequence to end the threat in that inning. In the final frame, Sabathia showed he was as fresh as ever, striking out the Cardinals’ two best hitters, Pujols and Ryan Ludwick, with little trouble whatsoever. After he got Troy Glaus to ground weakly to first, Sabathia had put the finishing touches on his team’s seventh straight win.
Since joining the Brewers on July 7, Sabathia has won all four of his starts and has a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings. He’s gotten even more impressive with each start, allowing two earned runs in his first two starts, one earned run in the next, and tossing a shutout last night. Sabathia was as efficient as he was dominant, blowing through the Cardinals lineup in only 106 pitches. The 6-7, 290 pound lefty looked visibly nervous in his first start with the Brewers, but after climbing that first hurdle, he has relaxed and let his pitching do the talking. He’s even provided a nice boost with his bat, hitting a home run in his second start.
His presence in the clubhouse hasn’t only paid dividends every fifth day; since arriving to the National League, the Brewers are 9-3 and have shaved three games off the Cubs lead, inching to only a single game back. During this four-game series, Milwaukee has already slipped past the Cardinals in the  standings and look primed to send them deep into their rearview mirror. Currently, they are sitting atop of the wildcard standings, but have a real shot at winning the Central, something that seemed out of the question as recently as a month ago.
It’s unclear whether or not the Brewers will make the long-term financial investment and sign the 28-year old Sabathia, who will probably command over $100 million. At the tail end of the deal, he would be in his mid-30’s and many pitchers have flamed out by that time, especially those that rely on velocity like Sabathia does. Most of the deals that have been signed to pitchers haven’t worked out either, which means Sabathia’s potential four month stint in the Brew City will only be judged by how he does in the postseason. However, if he’s able to lead the Brewers to October baseball, something they haven’t experienced since 1982, it would be hard to let him just walk somewhere else.
Before last season, Milwaukee had gone 14 straight years without a winning season. This town has longed for a shot at relevance ever since Robin Yount and Harvey’s Wallbangers, and now they have it with a nice young lineup and a solid front end of the rotation with Ben Sheets and now Sabathia. In the offseason, the time will come for the front office to make a decision on whether or not it’s fiscally responsible to lock down Sabathia long term. Until then, the organization can revel in the fact that they have him for now, and they should ride the wave as far as it can take them.