CC Sabathia was the ace his team needed him to be to open this year's postseason at Camden Yards on Sunday night, coming within an out of tossing a complete game in the New York Yankees' 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Sabathia (W, 1-0) (8.2 IP, 8H, 2R) really stepped up in the eighth, preserving a 2-2 tie despite allowing a leadoff double to J.J. Hardy. He emerged unscathed after striking out Adam Jones swinging, inducing Matt Wieters' popout to Mark Teixeira in foul territory, and getting Mark Reynolds to ground out. Sabathia's clutch effort left Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS up for grabs. The Yankees' five-run outburst in the ninth would be the difference.
Before Sabathia exited, Russell Martin put the Yankees ahead 3-2 with a top-of-the-ninth, solo home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson (L, 0-1) (0.1 IP, 5H, 5R, 4 ER). Martin's homer started a five-run rally, so Sabathia, who recorded seven strikeouts and walked one batter, had plenty of insurance heading into Baltimore's half of the frame.
The left-hander retired Manny Machado (groundout) and Chris Davis (strikeout) before giving up a double to Lew Ford. David Robertson, brought in after Ford's two-out double, struck pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty out swinging to end the game.
Sabathia went 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA in four starts between Aug. 29 and Sept. 14, but bounced back in his last three regular season outings, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Sunday's game marked the fourth straight start in which Sabathia has pitched at least eight innings and held the opposition to two runs or less.
The starters for Game 2 are left-handers Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 ERA) and Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA).
Pettitte, 40, has an obvious advantage in the experience department over Chen, a 26-year-old rookie who'll be making his postseason debut. Pettitte, in 42 playoff starts (38 with the Yankees), is 19-10 with a 3.83 ERA. In four starts vs. New York this season, Chen pitched to a 1-2 record and 5.25 ERA.
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