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Yankees 3, Orioles 1

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees will host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, but don't be surprised if they first have to kick the Baltimore Orioles off their field before the game.

The Orioles were that persistent.

One last time, the surprising and stubborn Orioles forced the Yankees to give everything they had to fend them off Friday night. Finally, New York clinched the American League Division Series with a 3-1 Game 5 victory.

The win required a masterful performance by ace CC Sabathia, a surprising display of small ball by slugger Mark Teixiera, a little good fortune on a foul ball call that may never be made entirely clear, and an old-fashioned late home run from slumping slugger Curtis Granderson, who was kept in the lineup while Alex Rodriguez was benched.

Denied a playoff appearance for 15 years or a lead in the AL East in the second half no matter how hard they charged, the Orioles fought to the last out, even when Sabathia (2-0) had appeared to finally put them to sleep.

But even after a just-missed home run by Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth was ruled foul in the sixth, in a play that couldn't help but stir the Jeffrey Maier demons for Orioles fans, and a 3-0 Yankees lead for Sabathia after seven one-hit innings, Baltimore once more attempted to defy anyone who still considered it capable of being dismissed.

Dominated by Sabathia throughout the game, the Orioles offered one final example of the persistence that never allowed the Yankees to rest as they split 22 games entering Game 5.

Matt Wieters led off the eighth with the Orioles' second hit of the game and Manny Machado drew a walk. Sabathia battled past a 3-1 count to strike out Mark Reynolds -- who homered four times in three games at Yankee Stadium in September -- for the first out.

But designated hitter Lew Ford singled in a run past a diving Derek Jeter at shortstop to make it 3-1.

Robert Andino then hit an appropriately named Baltimore chop in front of the mound and Sabathia's throw to second for the force was late, loading the bases for McLouth.

In the sixth, McLouth had seemingly hit a game-tying home run to right, but it was ruled foul. Sixteen years after the infamous fan interference play in which Yankees fan Maier stole a ball in the field of play that was ruled a home run for Derek Jeter, the umpires this time had a chance to review the play with instant replay.

But the technology was not especially helpful, as the repeated viewings made it difficult to definitively ascertain whether the ball had just barely nicked the foul pole.

The call was upheld and McLouth struck out.

But now he had another shot in the eighth, with Yankee Stadium full and roaring after the early start made the stands more reminiscent of a spring training game than an elimination contest.

But Sabathia geared up and struck him out, tying his postseason career high with his eighth strikeout of the game.

Up came J.J. Hardy. He hit a slow roller to Jeter, whose bruised foot didn't allow him to play the field in Game 4. Jeter charged and fired to first, just nipping Hardy. The crowd, which had chanted "CC! CC!" all night, roared in celebration and relief.

Sabathia then pitched a perfect ninth to wrap it up, including his career-high ninth postseason strikeout.

After a season full of a home run-or-bust offense, the Yankees finally broke through against Orioles starter Jason Hammel (0-1) in the most unconventional of ways.

Teixeira led off the fifth with a single to right. Then, the Yankees' slugger who was out for most of the stretch run with a calf injury, stunned the Orioles and the crowd by stealing second base. He had just two all season, and had never stolen one in a postseason game.

Raul Ibanez, the Yankees' late-game star down the stretch and in the ALDS, then singled to center, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The Yankees made it 2-0 in the sixth when Ichiro Suzuki doubled in Jeter, who scored from first after drawing a walk.

Granderson, who entered the game 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts, then put the Yankees up 3-0 in the seventh with a homer to right, his second hit of the game.

Before the game, Rodriguez stood on the top step of the dugout addressing the media. The Hall-of-Fame-caliber third baseman had been benched in a deciding playoff game, a move that had far-reaching implications. The Yankees still have five years and $118 million remaining on the 10-year deal Rodriguez signed in 2008.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he could work to rebuild relationships later, but could only worry about the present with his team on the cusp of elimination. So he started lefties Eric Chavez at third base and Ibanez at DH against the right-handed Hammel.

Rodriguez, 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the series, said he had to "look in the mirror" and didn't blame his manager for the humbling move.

"Obviously I'm not happy and, you know, I was disappointed," Rodriguez said. "But I keep telling you guys, this is not a story about one person, this is about a team."

Notes: Derek Jeter was back at shortstop for the Yankees, after moving to DH on Thursday, due to a bruised foot. ... Right-handed hitter Lew Ford started as the DH for the Orioles instead of future Hall of Fame candidate Jim Thome against lefty Sabathia. Manager Buck Showalter said he didn't want to "overextend" Thome physically and liked having him as a pinch-hitting option. ... Orioles infielder Wilson Betemit and left-hander Zach Britton joined the team in New York and could be added to the roster for the ALCS if the Orioles advance.

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Draft time:
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