Rapid Reaction: Yankees 7, Orioles 2
October, 8, 2012
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
BALTIMORE -- One in the bank, two more to get to the American League Championship Series and 10 more to go for World Series title No. 28. That's where the New York Yankees stand after they turned a tense eight-inning game into a 7-2 rout with a big ninth inning off the hottest closer in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles' Jim Johnson.
CC stands for Complete Conquest: CC Sabathia came up with a big-time performance Sunday night, 8 2/3 innings of eight-hit ball, and only one of them really mattered, Nate McLouth's two-run single in the third that accounted for all the Orioles' runs. CC struck out seven, walked one and gave most of the Yankees' bullpen, already well-rested since the regular season ended Wednesday, another night off. Sabathia came within one out of tossing the first complete game by a Yankees starter in the postseason since Roger Clemens threw one at Seattle in Game 4 of the 2000 ALCS.
Canadian club: Russell Martin's leadoff home run off Johnson -- who had not surrendered a homer since June 5 -- broke the 2-2 tie and started the Yankees' five-run ninth inning. Johnson had been virtually untouchable in his final 26 games of the regular season, allowing just one earned run in 25 innings, but he only got one out in this one, allowing five runs and five hits.
Huge play: Orioles catcher Matt Wieters saved a crucial run in the seventh when, with runners at second and third with one out, he was able to pick a one-hop throw from Robert Andino on Ichiro Suzuki's grounder to second and slap a tag on Martin just before he crossed the plate with what would have been the Yankees' third run. When Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the inning, the Yankees had suffered their first major RISP failure of the postseason.
Hammel time: Orioles starter Jason Hammel threw a boatload of pitches but somehow got nearly through six innings, holding the Yankees to two runs and four hits until Buck Showalter yanked him with two out in the sixth and Mark Teixeira, who had nearly homered in his previous at-bat, coming up with a runner at first. Hammel finished with 112 pitches and left to a standing ovation.
Swinging early: Sabathia was economical, needing just seven pitches to get through the first inning and only 43 through four, but he was aided by the aggressiveness of the Orioles, who did a lot of first-pitch swinging. In fact, Sabathia faced five batters in the third, and despite allowing three hits and two runs, threw just nine pitches.
Scratch that Ich: Ichiro doubled in Derek Jeter with the first run of the game in the opening inning, but then erased himself from the basepaths by getting caught trying to steal third, a questionable decision with none out and A-Rod, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher due up.
Running amuck: The Yankees ran themselves out of another potentially big inning in the fourth with Teixeira doubled high off the RF wall to score A-Rod (walk), tying the game at 2, but, clearly still hobbled by the calf strain that cost him 30 games late in the season, was easily thrown out at second by RF Chris Davis.
Bird ball: After being shut down on 21 pitches over the first two innings by Sabathia, the Orioles created a pair of runs in the second inning on a solid single by Davis, a broken bat single by Lew Ford -- the flying bat head may have frozen A-Rod momentarily, allowing the ball to bleed through -- a sacrifice bunt and a two-run single by Nate McLouth to give the O's a 2-1 lead in the third.
Russell hustle: Practically single-handed, Martin kept the game tied in the fifth. First, he made a great play on Ford's check-swing dribbler in front of the plate with the leadoff man on first, pouncing on the ball and then, despite slipping on the grass, bouncing a throw to Teixeira to nip Ford for the first out. Later, with a runner on third, he twice blocked pitches in the dirt that would have scored the runner had they gotten by, allowing CC to escape unscathed.
Cano cooling? Cano ended the regular season as the hottest hitter in baseball, with 24 hits in his last 39 at-bats (.615) and had not gone hitless in a game since Sept. 24. But he went 0-for-4 Sunday night before his ninth inning double knocked in the last two runs of the game, and his earlier at-bats were, to say the least, not very good. Needless to say, this would be a very bad time for the Yankees' best hitter to cool off on them.
K-Rod: A-Rod's postseason started off inauspiciously, with an 0-for-4 and 3Ks, although he did score the Yankees' second run of the game on Teixeira's single after walking in the fourth.
Mark of the devil: It's not too often that A-Rod runs second in a Most Hated Yankee referendum in any visiting ballpark, but he always gets a warmer (read: less vicious booing) welcome here in Baltimore than Annapolis boy Teixeira, who the fans have never forgiven for signing with the Yankees rather than the Orioles as a free agent before the 2009 season.
L-o-o-ong wait: Add two hours and 26 minutes to the 15 years between playoff appearances for the Orioles, thanks to a rainstorm that moved first pitch time from the scheduled 6:15 p.m. to 8:41.
What's next: Why, Game 2, of course. Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87) vs. RHP Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02), first pitch Monday at 8:07 p.m. ET.