BALTIMORE — For eight innings, the New York
Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged a magnificent duel worthy of two
division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished
two games apart in the standings.
Then the Yankees brushed aside the upstart, inexperienced newcomers and crashed a party 15 years in the making.
Russell Martin led off the ninth
inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, CC Sabathia turned
in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees pulled away to a 7-2
victory Sunday night in the opener of their AL divisional series.
Sabathia allowed two runs and
eight hits in 8 2/3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the
Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went
0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in
this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against
the Orioles to 17-4.
"Fastball command was good,
worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting
the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."
Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series.
"I thought he gave us a great
performance," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "Didn't give up a lot
of hard hit balls tonight, had a really good changeup tonight, and I
thought he used it very effectively."
With the score 2-2, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats.
"I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "He left a fastball up and I put good wood on it."
It was the first of four
straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez
and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run
with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run
In his seven prior appearances
against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three
saves. Nick Swisher capped the five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off
"I made mistakes," Johnson said.
"I obviously paid for those, and that was location. It wasn't anything
else. Two fastballs that really cost us. Just have to make a better
pitch. That's all it comes down to."
Game 2 will be played Monday night.
The start of the game was
delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, but that did nothing to lessen
the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing seasons
while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden
"We're obviously disappointed we
couldn't give them a win, but at least we're playing a five-game series
instead of a shootout," Orioles right fielder Chris Davis said.
Baltimore left seven on base and went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"We stayed in as long as we
could," Davis said. "We're finding out what playoff baseball is all
about. You've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you give
yourself and we weren't able to do that."
Then again, it's tough to mount a sustained rally against someone as polished and dominant as Sabathia.
"He just kind of wore us down,"
Davis said. "You have to tip your hat to him. He held us to two runs and
gave them a chance to win in the end."
Orioles starter Jason Hammel
allowed two runs, four hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. The
right-hander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two
games in September before his right knee began to bother him again.
After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and
gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a
New York missed an excellent
chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin
and Ibanez, Darren O'Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect
two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp
grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters
grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O'Day then
struck out Alex Rodriguez.
Neither team got a runner in
scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth
with a double. He did not advance.
"Being able to get out of that
with a tie and give us a chance to get up and score some runs, which we
did, was just a big spot," Sabathia said.
Immediately after Orioles fans
cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by
Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff
single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in
left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel
settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a
broken-bat fly to right.
Sabathia retired the first six
batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran
into trouble in the third inning. Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford
singled and both runners moved up on a bunt before Nate McLouth bounced a
two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.
New York promptly tied it in the
fourth, but another potential big inning was short-circuited when a
runner was thrown out on the basepaths. After Hammel walked two of the
first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field
scoreboard. The hit brought home a run, but Teixeira — who only recently
returned from a strained left calf — was thrown out at second by Davis.
That left Swisher at third base with two outs, and after an intentional
walk to Curtis Granderson, Martin hit a fly to center.
Singles by Davis and Andino put
runners at the corners with one out in the fifth before McLouth looked
at a third strike and Hardy grounded out.