With the bases loaded and two outs in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday, Sabathia came sprinting off the mound to cover home plate on a wild pitch, lunging forward to place the tag on a sliding Nelson Cruz to end the inning.
"That's the difference in the game maybe," manager Joe Girardi said of Sabathia's tag, which halted the Rangers' first-inning runs at three. "[If Cruz scores], it's a 6-6 game and maybe we are still playing right now."
Instead, the Yankees ended that inning, and Sabathia managed to go four innings of five-run baseball, earning a no-decision in New York's 6-5 come-from-behind win.
"That was huge," said Sabathia of the tag that ended a 36-pitch laborious frame. "At the time, I was disappointed, just because I was all over the place and [had the] bases loaded. But I mean looking back on it now, it's pretty big."
It was a closely contested play, and Rangers manager Ron Washington came out to argue in defense of Cruz, who also exchanged words with home-plate umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis.
"I thought I was safe," Cruz said. "I thought I had slid in there. That was a big run. You can't give a team like that second chances."
Television replays on TBS showed that Davis made the correct call, as Sabathia's glove swiped Cruz, who slid feet first, on the arm before he touched home plate. The defensive gem wouldn't have been possible without some luck, as the first pitch to No. 9 batter Jorge Cantu bounced off the backstop's brick wall and directly to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who flipped it to the hustling Sabathia.
Cruz's slide selection could have also cost the Rangers a run, as Sabathia was able to get a glove on Cruz's hand while the left fielder's lead leg was still in the air.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.