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Yankees Put Away Orioles With Dominant Performance By Sabathia

Jeremy Bergman |
October 12, 2012 | 11:28 p.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

CC Sabathia was the key to the Yankees' ALDS victory. (Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
CC Sabathia was the key to the Yankees' ALDS victory. (Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons)
Start spreadin' the news! Behind a dominant and clutch performance by CC Sabathia, the New York Yankees pulled out another gut-wrenchingly close one against the Baltimore Orioles, eliminating their rivals 3-1 and moving on to the ALCS.

For six days and five games, fans of both sides had their worlds turned upside down. The two heaviest hitting clubs in the bigs - 1st and 2nd in home runs, respectively - averaged a combined 5.2 runs per game. Nearly every game was decided by one or two runs and only once did one of these AL East clubs score more than three runs in a game - New York has Jim Johnson to thank for that. For six long days and five stressful games of pitches perfect, weak hitting, and dramatic baseball, someone had to win and someone had to lose. 

All of the hype coming into Friday's climactic finish was centered around Yankees manager Joe Girardi's boldest move yet - benching the $20 Million (a year) Man, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod had been struggling mightily, going 2-16 so far in the postseason with nine strikeouts - at least two in every game. Due to his enormous contract and his even larger disappointments, he had been getting much slack from the New York and national media - ahem, ESPN - calling for his benching and even his release.

But A-Rod wasn't the only Yankee who was struggling, or Oriole for that matter. In a shocking development, the two most powerful and electric offenses during the regular season got their plugs pulled on them this series.

Exhibit A: Robinson Cano, New York's de facto MVP, hit .313 in the regular season; in the LDS, he hit .091. 

Exhibit B: Curtis Granderson led the team in HRs and RBIs during the regular season; in the LDS, he waited until the last game to produce anything in those two categories, finishing with a ghastly .158.

Exhibit C (Orioles Edition): Adam Jones hit .287 and 32 dingers in the regular season, but hit a dismal .077 in the postseason, with only one RBI, coming in the play-in game. 

Point? It was a pitcher's series, no doubt about it. Phil Hughes looked like Nolan Ryan. Wei-Yin Chen pitched like Sandy Koufax. CC Sabathia threw like…CC Sabathia.

Speaking of Carsten Charles, the big man put in his second phenomenal performance of the series, going the whole nine yards - innings - in Game 5 to put away the O's. The Yankee ace threw his postseason-high 121 pitches and nine K's and allowed just four hits in his most dominating and important postseason performance to date. This coming just five days after a equally brilliant start at Camden Yards when he went 8 2/3 innings, gave up just two earned, and striking out seven. For those of you mathematically challenged, that's 17 2/3 innings in one LDS, the most in Yankees history.

Jason Hammel and the O's rotation pitched well, but not well enough to win the series. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Jason Hammel and the O's rotation pitched well, but not well enough to win the series. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The Orioles pitching staff was no slouch either. New York's bats were held at bay by two strong starts by Jason Hammel, an impressive debut by Wei-Yin Chen, and equally overpowering starts from Joe Saunders and Mike Gonzalez. Baltimore's pitchers were on top of their game all series, throwing several unhittable pitches that eluded the well-invested Bronx bats to the tune of 38 strikeouts. The Yankees were held powerless in nearly every inning of the series by Baltimore pitching, save for their five-run rally against Jim Johnson in Game 1 and Raul Ibanez's pinch-hit mastery in Game 3. 

Friday's game didn't feature one unstressful inning, with Yankee fans - arriving late - and Oriole fans simultaneously biting their nails, just hoping and praying for that one, that one big hit.

The first blow came in the fifth when the most unlikely of men stole the show, literally. After reaching on a single to break up Hammel's no-hit bid, Mark Teixeira, not held on by the Baltimore infield, stole second. What made the move so surprising was that Tex had stolen just two bases all year and was recovering from a dehabilitating calf injury. Next up was Mr. Clutch, Ibanez himself, who knocked in the Yanks first baseman with an RBI single. 

The O's came thisclose to tying it up in the sixth when Nate McLouth launched a high fly down the right field line that appeared to the right field ump to land just foul of the pole. On replay, the ball did appear to land to the right of the pole, but only after grazing it ever so slightly. The umps went under the hood, replacement ref style, and revealed a "foul ball" verdict. Had they changed their first ruling, the game and maybe the series would have surely turned out differently.

Regardless, New York extended their lead in the sixth with an RBI double by Ichiro Suzuki, which drove in Derek Jeter. Then, in the seventh, the big blow, and what turned out to be the dagger, came off the bat of a struggling Bomber, Curtis Granderson. The Grandy Man launched Troy Patton's pitch into the second deck of the right field stands, putting New York up, 3-0.

The Orioles almost took back the game in the eighth, plating one off of a Lew Ford single, and loading up the bases with one out. Sabathia was approaching 100 pitches and Girardi later admitted that he was considering pulling the lefty for setup man David Robertson. But the much-criticized Yankee skipper stayed true to his laurels, kept his ace in, and was rewarded. CC struck out McLouth and then forced J.J. Hardy to ground out to end the inning.

If you thought the Yankee ace wouldn't come out to finish what he started, then you were sorely mistaken. Call it stubbornness or just sheer determination, but Sabathia doesn't like giving up his time under the floodlights easily, and for good reason. CC mowed down the last three Oriole batters of the series in order and with ease, locking up a trip to the ALCS and assuring himself a place in Yankee lore.

At the end of the day, the negative press going into the game on the decline of A-Rod, the ineptitude of the New York lineup, and the inability for the Yanks to close, all that is washed aside now. 

Friday was CC's night.

Saturday? That's another story. It will only take 18 hours for the press and the pressure to get to the Yankees again, with the Detroit Tigers coming into town in a rematch of last year's ALDS. There's Verlander, Jackson, Fielder, and Cabrera to worry about, and there are more worriers in the New York-metropolitan area than the Yankee clubhouse is comfortable with.

But Yankee Universe can rest assured that for now, for this night, on the calf of Mark Teixeira, the bat of Curtis Granderson and the arm of CC Sabathia, their team has moved on.


Reach Associate Sports Editor Jeremy Bergman via e-mail or follow him on Twitter.



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