BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Orioles could never have imagined their first home playoff game in 15 years ending with a dismal performance by their most reliable pitcher.
Jim Johnson gave up five runs in the ninth inning, and the Orioles lost to the New York Yankees 7-2 Sunday night in the opener of their AL division series.
Russell Martin hit a tiebreaking homer leading off the ninth, and CC Sabathia came within one out of his first career complete game in the postseason to help the Yankees get the jump in this best-of-five matchup.
With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats. It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.
In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher capped the uprising with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
"Made a mistake, obviously to Martin and a couple of other mistakes over the middle of the plate," Johnson said. "We paid for it, obviously. It's unfortunate, with the effort we got out of everybody else and I didn't hold up my end of the bargain."
Game 2 is scheduled for Monday night.
The start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, and that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing season while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden Yards.
For eight innings, the sellout crowd was treated to tense duel that typified the competition between two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings.
Then came the ninth.
'We're obviously disappointed we couldn't give them a win, but at least we're playing a five-game series instead of a shootout," right fielder Chris Davis said.
Sabathia went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one the husky left-hander allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to improve his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4.
"Fastball command was good, worked off that," Sabathia said. "Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches."
Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series. He wasn't perfect, but plenty good enough when it counted — Baltimore left seven on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
"We stayed in as long as we could," Davis said. "We're finding out what playoff baseball is all about. You've got to capitalize on every opportunity that you give yourself and we weren't able to do that."
Then again, it's tough to mount a sustained rally against someone as polished and dominant as Sabathia.
"He just kind of wore us down," Davis said. "You have to tip your hat to him. He held us to two runs and gave them a chance to win in the end."
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