The Orioles are dead. The reason I know this is I saw them lose with my own eyes. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have believed it.
They pursued the Yankees all summer long, took the ALDS to five games and in the eighth inning had the bases loaded with one out, down by a couple of runs. Right there biting at the Yankees’ heels because where else would they be? But tonight, CC Sabathia delivered arguably his finest performance as a Yankee. He not only got out of the jam in the eighth but he returned in the ninth and finished the game as the Yanks beat the Orioles 3-1 to advance to the ALCS.
The game began essentially where it left off last night and for the first four-and-a-half innings it was like watching Groundhog’s Day. No hits, no runs.
Then Mark Teixeira led off the bottom of the fifth with a single over the shift into right field. With first baseman Mark Reynolds playing behind him, Teixeira took a walking lead and then sprinted to second and made it safely. Raul Ibanez fouled off a few pitches and then singled Teixeira home. The next inning, Derek Jeter walked with one out and scored all the way from first on a double off the bottom of the right center field wall by Ichiro. And then in the seventh, Curtis Granderson finally got a pitch in the strike zone that he could handle, pounding it into the seats in right field for a home run.
That gave Sabathia a healthy 3-0 lead and he cruised through the Orioles lineup. The only bad moment–and it was a hold-your-breath-tight spot–came in the sixth when Nate McClouth launched a 3-2 pitch high into the right field seats. It went over the foul pole and was ruled foul. The Orioles protested, the umps huddled, and the replays showed that the ball was in fact foul. However, one replay, with an extreme close up of the pole, showed that the ball could have scraped the pole. You can see the ball slightly change directions as it passed the yellow stick. But it wasn’t clear enough to overturn the call and the umps upheld their original call. McClouth whiffed on the next pitch and before you knew it, Ichiro had given the Yanks a two-run cushion.
Sabathia worked easily through the seventh and then came his bend-but-don’t-break eighth. Matt Wieters singled to start the inning and Manny Machado followed with a walk. Mark Reynolds worked the count even, missed a fastball that got too much of the plate (fouling it off), and then whiffed on a breaking ball. Had a pitch, missed the pitch.
But Lew Ford hit a ground ball through the left side for a base hit–watching the replay it was as if someone yelled “Timber” as Jeter dove after it. I thought Brett Gardner, who’d just entered the game as a defensive replacement, had a play at the plate on the slow-footed Wieters but instead threw to third base in order to prevent the runners from advancing.
Robert Andino, another scrapper, hit a slow chopper toward third. Sabathia hopped after it, fielded and then hesitated for a moment, looking at third base. But Chavez had gone after the ball too and wasn’t near the bag. The play was to first, but Sabathia threw to second instead. Too late. His mistake loaded the bases.
He summoned up a mess of courage, struck out McClouth and then got JJ Hardy to hit a slow ground ball to short. Jeter charged in, fielded the ball, and then made an off balanced throw to first. It reached Teixeira in plenty of time for the third out. Jeter may not have much range but he didn’t botch the one right at him–and one he had to make a play on, it was no gimme–when the chips were down.
Sabathia came back out in the ninth, got Adam Jones to sky out to Gardner, struck out Chris Davis, and ended the game by getting Wieters to hit a harmless ground ball to the mound. Sabathia tossed the ball to Teixeira like he was tossing an egg at the county fair.
Final Score: Yanks 3, O’s 1.
CC is a Stud.
The Orioles were resilient and relentless. The Yankees, as fate had it, were a touch better, or luckier.
However you want to call it, the Bronx be happy.
Tomorrow gives the Tigers. Tonight gives relief, hugs, and love.
[Photo Credit: Alex Trautwig/Getty Images North America; Elsa/Getty Images North America]