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ALDS Game 1: Statement

October 8, 2012

Old rivals prepare for battle (Getty Images)

The Yankees opened their 2012 postseason with a statement.  47,841 raucous fans jammed Camden Yards, waving orange towels, standing on every two-strike count, basking in their return to October after a 15 year absence, and seething with revenge.  Revenge for finishing in 2nd place after a September surge.  For the 1996 ALCS.  For Jeffrey Freaking Maier.  On paper, it looked like they might just get it.

Entering the game, CC Sabathia was 0-2 in his last two starts in Baltimore, allowing 16 hits and 9 earned runs over 12.1 innings.  The Yankees were missing their Hall of Fame closer, while the O’s had Jim Johnson and his Major League-leading 51 saves.  Buck’s boys had been on the Yanks’ heels for the last month of the season, and now had a chance to beat them when it mattered most.  Tonight was supposed to be a party on the Inner Harbor, but as the Yankees have perennially proven, in October it doesn’t matter what it says on paper.  You need to perform.

On a chilly night in Baltimore the Yankees exhibited their playoff pedigree by stealing home field advantage and silencing the O’s largest crowd of the season.  Sabathia, showing no ill effects after a 2 1/2 hour rain delay, pitched a gem through 8 innings, allowing 7 hits and 2 earned runs, but was in desperate need of some offense as the Yanks entered the top of the 9th deadlocked at 2.  As Johnson strode to the mound, just the 11th man to ever record a 50-save season, the sea of orange expected to enter the 9th with a chance to walk off.  Russell Martin quickly snuffed those hopes, leading off the inning with a towering solo home run to left field.  Raúl Ibañez followed with a single, moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Derek Jeter, and was plated on a huge infield single by Ichiro Suzuki.  A double by Robinson Cano and a sacrifice by Nick Swisher provided a few more insurance runs as the Yanks built an insurmountable 7-2 lead.

In game 2 Andy Pettitte will face off against Wei-Yin Chen in perhaps the biggest experiential mismatch in baseball history, based on their postseason statistics:

Pettitte/Chen

  • Games | 42/0
  • Innings Pitched | 263/0
  • Wins | 19/0
  • Strikeouts | 173/0

The last time Pettitte pitched against Baltimore in the playoffs was October 9, 1996, almost exactly 16 years to the day of tonight’s start.  Chen was 11-years-old.  Pettitte didn’t get the win, but pitched well enough to keep the Yankees in the game as they held on for a 5-4 win in 11 innings.  Was that the last time the O’s lost an extra inning game?

The playoffs are more of a marathon than a sprint, but the Yanks still earned a huge win tonight, already forcing Baltimore into a must-win situation Monday night. 1 down, 10 to go.

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