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Yankees top Orioles 7-2 in ALDS opener

By STEVE DeSHAZO

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

BALTIMORE–They endured a 14-year drought (plus another 2 1/2 hours of rain delay) to see the Orioles’ play a fpostseason home game. Now Baltimore’s long-suffering fans will have to wait at least another day for a playoff victory.

Meaningful October baseball is an unfamiliar experience to many at Camden Yards. The New York Yankees know a thing or two about it, as they proved Sunday night in their 7-2 victory over the Orioles in the opening game of their American League Division Series at Camden Yards.

New York broke open a close game with five ninth-inning runs off Jim Johnson, who set a club record with 51 saves during the Orioles’ remarkable regular season. Summoned by manager Buck Showalter into a non-save situation, Johnson allowed a tie-breakling solo home run to Russell Martin leading off the ninth and a two-run double to Ichiro Suzuki later in the inning.

The Orioles will try to pull even Monday night, when Wei-Yen Chen faces Andy Pettitte, whose 18 postseason wins are the most in baseball history. The best-of-five series then moves to Yankee Stadium for Game 3 Wednesday and subsequent games (if necessary) Thursday and Friday.

The last time the Orioles reached the postseason was 1997, when Cal Ripken Jr. was in the midst of his record streak of 2,632 straight games played. Their third baseman Sunday night, Manny Machado, was 5 years old at the time.

But under Showalter, the Orioles rediscovered many of the ingredients that made them so successul in the 1960s and 70s: solid defense, lights-out relief pitching and timely hitting (including several of former manager Earl Weaver’s favorites, the three-run home run).

Those factors kept them competitive for most of Sunday night, until the Yankees broke through in the ninth. The Orioles also had few answers for Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who scattered eight hits in 8 2/3 innings while throwing 120 pitches. Lew Ford’s double denied Sabathia a complete game, but David Robertson struck out Ryan Flaherty to end the game.

A steady downpour turned a scheduled 6:15 p.m. start into an affait that lasted past midnight. But rather than dampening their spirits, it actually seemed to energize a season-high sellout crowd of 47,841 who waved orange towels with gusto while the grounds crew removed the tarp.

The Yankees wasted little time jumping out to a 1-0 first-inning lead. Leadoff batter Derek Jeter singled to center and, running on a 3-2 pitch, scored easily when Ichiro Suzuki doubled to the left-center gap.

The Orioles responded with two runs off Sabathia in the bottom of the third, sparked by the bottom of their batting order. No. 7 hitter Chris Davis and No. 8 Lew Ford singled and advanced on Robert Aldino’s sacrifice bunt. Nate McLouth, signed off the free-agent scrap heap last spring, pulled a fastball into right field for a two-RBI single.

Mark Teixeira’s RBI single tied it at 2-2 in the fourth, but Lew Ford threw him out trying to stretch the hit into a double. It marked the second time the Yankees ran themselves out of a potential big inning. Matt Weiters nailed Suzuki trying to steal third after his first-inning double.

Orioles starter Jason Hammel held New York to two runs over 5 2/3 innings, using 112 pitches to do so. Davis also helped out the cause with a running catch of Curtis Granderson’s foul fly ball in the right field corner to end the top of the sixth and strand two Yankees on base.

New York squandered another chance in the top of the seventh. Reliever Troy Patton walked Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez to open the inning, and Jeter advanced them with a two-strike sacrifice bunt off Darren O’Day.

But the submarining O’Day allowed just six of 43 inherited runners to score during the regular season, and he was similarly stingy Sunday night. With the infield in, O’Day induced Suzuki to ground to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw out Martin at the plate (thanks to a nifty short-hop snag by catcher Matt Wieters), then struck out Alex Rodriguez to end the threat.

J.J. Hardy led off the bottom of the eighth inning by slicing a double just inside the right-field line. But he never got any farther, as Adam Jones struck out, Wieters popped out and Mark Reynolds grounded to short.

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