Jim Johnson rocked in the ninth as Orioles fall to Yankees, 7-2
Russell Martin's solo homer starts five-run rally for New York
Orioles closer Jim Johnson watches a ball hit by Russell Martin sail over the left-field wall for a home run in the ninth inning. (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron / October 8, 2012)
With anticipation in the crisp October air, the Orioles played their first home playoff game at Camden Yards in since 1997 on Sunday night, so waiting an extra two hours and 26 minutes really didn’t matter too much.
But Russell Martin’s solo homer off O’s closer Jim Johnson in the ninth inning kickstarted a five-run rally for the New York Yankees, who took Game 1 of the American League Division Series, 7-2. Game 2 is tonight at Camden Yards.
Martin took a 2-0, 93 mph sinker from Johnson over left-field fence to lead off the top of the ninth. It was the first home run hit off the majors’ regular-season saves leader since June 5.
Martin also became the first Yankee to hit a go-ahead postseason home run in the ninth inning or later on the road since Roger Maris did it in 1961.
“It's tough,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “It's just tough going, period. There's not much margin for error. Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again. Tonight just wasn't his night.”
The Orioles entered the year as 150-to-1 longshots to win the World Series, but on Sunday night, following a two-hour, 26-minute rain delay, a sellout crowd of 47,841 waved orange rally towels and the ritual “O” during the national anthem seemed to be as loud as it’s ever been in the 20-year-old ballpark.
It was about facing the Yankees. It was about a 12-year-old reaching over the right-field at Yankee Stadium. It was about wincing at the sight of Mike Mussina in pinstripes. It was about being forced to watch the big-city Yankees become baseball’s crème de la crème in this blue-collar town while clutching fading faith year after year.
But at the end of the night, it was New York delivering another blow to the Orioles’ fan base.
"It's a big lift,” Martin said of his homer. “It definitely sparked us, it seemed like. We added some insurance runs at the end there. But against a pitcher of that caliber, you're not expecting to hit home runs at the end there. I was just trying to hit the ball hard, and luckily, he left a ball over the middle of the plate for me.”
After Martin’s homer, Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter singled. Ichiro Suzuki had an RBI infield hit, and Robinson Cano delivered a two-run double. The fifth run of the inning came on Nick Swisher’s sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
"[I] 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. I feel confident in our team, and we'll come back tomorrow and give a better performance."
Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was winless in three starts against the Orioles this season, came one out short of a complete game, holding the Orioles to just two runs on eight hits.
The Orioles entered the night hitting .312 against the big lefty, but on Sunday night he threw 25 of 35 first-pitch strikes, working ahead in the count against an aggressive O's lineup.
“He threw a lot of strikes,” right fielder Chris Davis said of Sabathia. “It felt like he got ahead of a lot of our hitters, and obviously staying in the game as long as he did, he kind of wore us down. He held us to two runs and gave them the chance to win it at the end.”
Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, pitching for just the third time since July 13 after a second half full of battling through a right-knee injury, held the Yankees to two runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings.
Hammel missed eight weeks after arthroscopic surgery to remove loose cartilage in his knee and then hobbled off the mound two starts into his return on Sept. 11, reaggravating his knee and putting his season in question.
He pitched Sunday with a bulky brace on his knee, but battled a patient Yankees lineup with ferocity, surviving several deep counts. He struck out five — all of them coming against the Yankees’ first three hitters in the lineup — and walked four before coming out of the game following his 112th pitch, the most in a start since July 2.
“They’re veteran guys,” Hammel said. “They’ve been around long enough to know the strike zone well. They go up there with a plan. There were a lot of pitches that they took or fouled off."