It was a hard-fought battle for eight innings…until Jim Johnson opened the floodgates in the ninth, leading to a 7-2 win for the Yankees over the Orioles in game one of their ALDS, giving the Yankees a 1-0 series lead.
CC Sabathia started for the Yankees, and quite frankly, he was awesome. Sabathia threw 120 pitches for the Yankees, with 80 strikes in those 120, completing 8 2/3 innings in the process of earning the win for the Yankees. His biggest trouble spot came in the third, when Chris Davis and Lew Ford led the inning off with back to back singles, moving up on a Robert Andino sac bunt and scoring on a two-run single from Nate McLouth. After that, the Orioles couldn't get anything going. They had men on the corners with one out in the fifth, and left with nothing. They had men on first and second with two outs in the sixth, and got zilch. JJ Hardy led the eighth off with a double, and grew roots there. It was a cakewalk for Sabathia, who allowed justt he two runs on eight hits, walking only one and striking out seven.
His counterpart Jason Hammel wasn't nearly as sharp, but ended up leaving with the same damage as Sabathia: two runs on the board. In his first start since September 11th (when he left after 3 2/3 due to a knee injury), Hammel went 5 2/3 and allowed just the two runs on four hits, walking four and striking out five. The defense surrounding Hammel also limited the damage when he got into messes. After Ichiro doubled in Derek Jeter in the first inning, Matt Wieters threw Ichiro out at third, and the Yankees went down queitly after that. In the fourth, Hammel walked a pair and allowed an RBI single to Mark Teixeira, with Teixiera getting gunned out at second by Chris Davis trying to stretch the hit into a double.
After Hammel exited, the dominant Orioles bullpen took over and held New York scoreless until the ninth. Then, the fires of Hell were unleashed onto Camden Yards. Russell Martin led the inning off against closer Jim Johnson with a solo homer to make it a 3-2 game. Then, Raul Ibanez singled. Then, Derek Jeter singled. Then, Ichiro hit an infield single that scored Eduardo Nunez, pinch running for Ibanez to make it 4-2. Johnson struck out Alex Rodriguez to get his first out, but then Robinson Cano hit a two-run double to make it 6-2, leading to the end of Johnson's disastrous evening. To add insult to injury, Tommy Hunter allowed Cano to score on a sac fly from Nick Swisher to make it 7-2 before getting out of the inning. Baltimore's closer, who led the league with 51 saves during the season, finished the game by getting one out, allowing five hits and five runs, with four of them being earned. He also threw just 17 pitches throughout that disaster.
The Orioles executed their gameplan perfectly for nearly eight innings. They touched up Sabathia a little bit, Hammel gave them a solid outing, and the bullpen kept them in the game. But Johnson's ninth inning meltdown wasn't in the cards, and that cost them the game. Baltimore had opportunities to put runs on the board, but just couldn't. That's pretty much been the theme in the ALDS this weekend: missed opportunities. The A's blew a couple of chances today to blow their game with the Tigers wide open, the Orioles did the same tonight with the Yankees, and both teams are now trailing in their respective series.
Game two between the Yankees and Orioles will be on Monday at 8:07 PM, and will pit Andy Pettitte against Wei-Yin Chen. So Chen's first taste of American postseason baseball will be against the pitcher with the most all-time playoff wins. No pressure or anything.