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Martin's homer propels Yankees to late rally in 7-2 victory

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- Russell Martin struggled at the plate for much of the 2012 season. But Martin did have three game-winning homers in the ninth inning or later -- and he did it again Sunday night in the first game of the American League Division Series.

Martin hit a tie-breaking homer in the ninth inning to start a five-run rally that gave the New York Yankees a 7-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Game 2 of the best-of-five series is scheduled for Monday night at Camden Yards. The series then will shift to New York for Game 3 on Wednesday. If Games 4 and/or 5 are needed, they'll also take place at Yankee Stadium.

Martin homered off Baltimore closer Jim Johnson to snap a 2-2 tie that had been in place since the fourth. Three of Martin's last seven homers this season gave New York the lead, and that's what happened with this shot.

"I definitely wasn't thinking home run," Martin said. "I got in a good count to hit, and I got a pitch that was up in the zone. In that situation, he just got a fastball up and I put good wood on it."

Martin hit much better in the second half of the season and had a .258 average for September and October.

"He has really turned it around," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "He was huge in the month of September for us. Huge hit tonight."

For Baltimore, Johnson set a club record with 51 saves this season, and he closed out the Orioles' 5-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night in the AL wild-card game.

The Orioles relied heavily on Johnson and the bullpen this season, and the big right-hander couldn't come through in this game. He gave up five runs on five hits and lasted just one-third of an inning.

"There's not much margin for error," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again. Tonight just wasn't his night."

After the Martin homer, Raul Ibanez singled and went to third on a Derek Jeter single. Eduardo Nunez pinch-ran for Ibanez and scored on Ichiro Suzuki's infield single to give New York a 4-2 lead.

Robinson Cano later lined a two-run double to left to put the Yankees on top 6-2. Cano moved to third on J.J. Hardy's throwing error on the relay and scored on a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly against Tommy Hunter.

"You win as a team, you lose as a team ... so we never put our head down," Cano said. "That was a great ninth inning."

That ninth inning gave the victory to starter CC Sabathia, who went 8 2/3 innings. The left-hander struck out seven and allowed the two runs on eight hits. Reliever David Robertson struck out Ryan Flaherty for the final out with a runner on second base.

"These guys know what I'm trying to do," Sabathia said. "I've faced them a lot. I was able just to execute tonight."

Both teams created and wasted numerous scoring chances. The Yankees left two runners on in the fourth, sixth and seventh without getting a run. Baltimore stranded two runners in both the fifth and sixth innings and left Hardy at second following his leadoff double in the eighth.

The Yankees didn't need much time to take the lead. Jeter led off the game with a seeing-eye single to center. He then scored all the way from first when Ichiro lined a double into the gap in left-center to put New York on top 1-0.

Ichiro then tried to steal third, but Orioles catcher Matt Wieters threw him out. That seemed to help starter Jason Hammel settle down, as Hammel retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.

The Orioles took the lead with a two-run third inning. Chris Davis and Lew Ford started the inning with back-to-back singles. Robert Andino's sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third.

Nate McLouth then lined a two-run single to right for a 2-1 Baltimore lead.

The Yankees tied it in the fourth when Alex Rodriguez walked and later scored on a Mark Teixeira single. Teixeira lined a shot off the right field scoreboard, but Davis grabbed the rebound barehanded and threw a strike to second to get Teixeira.

After that, the game remained tied until Martin's homer sparked the big five-run ninth inning.

"I love being in that kind of situation," Martin said. "I feel like you concentrate a little bit more."

NOTES: Rain forced the start of the game to be delayed for two hours, 26 minutes. ... This was the first home playoff game for the Orioles since they dropped a 1-0 decision to the Cleveland Indians in Game 6 of the 1997 AL Championship Series. ... Hammel was making his first start since Sept. 11, as he'd been nursing a right knee injury. ... The Yankees won the American League East championship for the 13th time in the last 17 years. ... This is just the second season Ichiro has been in the playoffs. The other time was with the Seattle Mariners in 2001, and he had a .421 postseason average that year.
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