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Sunday night in Baltimore, the Yankees turned a nail-biter into a laugher with five runs in the ninth inning, all against Orioles closer Jim Johnson. CC Sabathia pitched brilliantly, and came just one out short of a complete game.
There was a lot of waiting for this one. The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles had to wait out a long rain delay, two hours and 26 minutes, before starting the first game of their Division Series. The Orioles' fans have waited 15 years to see their team in the postseason at all.
But they couldn't out-score them.
Not until the ninth inning.
In the first eight innings, the Yankees kept getting runners on base, but they could get only two of them home, thanks to some poor baserunning (theirs), some good fielding (the Orioles') and some clutch pitching, first from Baltimore starter Jason Hammel and later from relievers Troy Patton, Darren O'Day, and Brian Matusz.
In the first inning, the Yankees scored a quick run when Derek Jeter led off with a single and Ichiro Suzuki doubled him home. But Ichiro was out trying to steal third, and that was the only run they would get. In the third, the O's went ahead 2-1 on Nate McLouth's two-run single; it was one of the few bad pitches that CC Sabathia would make all evening.
In the top of the fourth, Mark Teixeira tied the game with a massive single that caromed off the scoreboard on the right-field wall. But Teixeira was out trying to stretch his single into a double, which might have cost the Yankees a run or two.
And that's where the score remained until the ninth inning, when the floodgates opened. Buck Showalter called on closer Jim Johnson; of course it wasn't save situation, but by that point there would never have been a save situation for the Orioles. And Johnson essentially couldn't get anybody out.
First Russell Martin drove a home run well into the left-field stands. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter singled. Ichiro reached safely on a swinging bunt, with a run scoring. Johnson struck out Alex Rodriguez, but Robinson Cano followed with a double that plated Jeter and Rodriguez.
Jim Johnson hadn't allowed more than two runs in a game since July. He allowed just one run, period, in his last 26 regular-season outings. But in the blink of an eye he allowed four, and finally Showalter took him out of the game. Ex-starter Tommy Hunter came in, and gave up a sacrifice fly to make the score 7-2 (with that fifth run charged against Johnson, too). The carnage finally ended when Teixeira grounded out.
Meanwhile, CC Sabathia just kept rolling along. Buck Showalter used six pitchers, and Joe Girardi used ... well, it would have been just one, except Sabathia couldn't quite close the deal. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Lew Ford (Lew Ford!) lined Sabathia's 120th pitch into the right-field gap for a double, and Girardi came out and got his ace. David Robertson came in and struck out Ryan Flaherty to end it.
It's not the end of the world for the Orioles, who will have another shot at the Yankees Monday night.
It's not good, though.