Monday, October 8, 2012

MLB Playoffs ALDS: Yankees beat Orioles 7-2 / Tigers survive A’s 5-4

CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during Game One of the American League Division Series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 7, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.
(October 6, 2012 – Source: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America)

BALTIMORE (AP) — CC Sabathia, Russell Martin and the New York Yankees crashed a party that was 15 years in the making.

Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance and the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-2 Sunday night in the opener of their AL divisional series.

Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8 2-3 innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles’ first home playoff game since 1997. The husky left-hander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved 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.

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 five-run ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.

“It’s tough. It’s just tough going, period,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again. Tonight just wasn’t his night.”

Game 2 will be played 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.
Baltimore left seven on base and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We stayed in as long as we could,” Orioles right fielder Chris 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.”

Orioles starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs, four hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two games in September before his right knee began to bother him again. After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a month.

New York missed an excellent chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin and Ibanez, Darren O’Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O’Day then struck out Alex Rodriguez.

Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth with a double. He did not advance.

“Being able to get out of that with a tie and give us a chance to get up and score some runs, which we did, was just a big spot,” Sabathia said.

Immediately after Orioles fans cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a broken-bat fly to right.

Sabathia retired the first six batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran into trouble in the third inning. Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford singled and both runners moved up on a bunt before
Nate McLouth bounced a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.

New York promptly tied it in the fourth, but another potential big inning was short-circuited when a runner was thrown out on the basepaths. After Hammel walked two of the first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field scoreboard. The hit brought home a run, but Teixeira — who only recently returned from a strained left calf — was thrown out at second by Davis. That left Swisher at third base with two outs, and after an intentional walk to Curtis Granderson, Martin hit a fly to center.

Singles by Davis and Andino put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth before McLouth looked at a third strike and Hardy grounded out.

NOTES: Andy Pettitte will bring 42 games of playoff experience into Game 2 on Monday night as the starting pitcher for the Yankees. Orioles rookie Wei-Yin Chen will be making his postseason debut. …

Wieters went 0 for 4 against Sabathia and now is 5 for 28 (.179) lifetime against him. … In 16 career division series openers, Jeter is batting .448 (26 for 58) and reached base in 15 games. … Suzuki has at least one hit in 10 of his 11 career postseason games and has reached base in all of them. He’s also hit in 20 straight games at Camden Yards, a streak that began in 2008.

Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland Athletics looks on from the dugout against the Detroit Tigers during Game Two of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park on October 7, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.
(October 6, 2012 – Source: Jason Miller/Getty Images North America)

MLB Playoffs ALDS: A’s blow chances to tie series, lose 5-4 to Tigers

DETROIT (AP) — Coco Crisp sprinted in from deep center field to put himself in position to make a basket catch that would end the seventh inning with the Oakland Athletics clinging to a one-run lead.
Instead, the ball off Miguel Cabrera’s bat hit the heel of Crisp’s glove, popped in and out of the mitt’s webbing and left him trying to snag it with his bare right hand on a third attempt to make a key play.

“I had to make a decision between turning my glove over and going for the basket catch or trying to slide
into the ball,” Crisp said. “I’ve made the catch both ways, and obviously this time, I made the wrong decision.”

Crisp couldn’t get a grip and the Tigers took advantage with two runs that helped them beat Oakland 5-4 Sunday and take a 2-0 lead in their AL division series.

“It was an unfortunate play for them and a fortunate play for us,” Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

“That’s the human element of the game.”

The Athletics will face elimination in Game 3 on Tuesday.

“They’re not going to cash it in, trust me,” Leyland said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

The A’s will host the next three games — if they make them necessary in the five-game series.
Baseball is using a 2-3 format in the division series because there wasn’t enough time to have an extra travel day with an extra wild-card team in both leagues.

After Crisp’s error, Oakland responded with two runs in the eighth to get the lead back — on a wild pitch and Josh Reddick’s solo homer — but blew it again in the home half before losing the possibly pivotal game in the ninth inning.

Reliever Ryan Cook got two outs in the eighth, but threw a wild pitch that allowed Don Kelly to score and make it 4-all.

“Both teams made some mistakes that got the other team in the game,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

Kelly ended the game in the ninth with a sacrifice fly off closer Grant Balfour that scored Omar Infante and put the A’s in a tough spot.

Oakland hopes it can draw on its comeback experience from late in the regular season.

The AL West champions became the first team in baseball history to win a division or pennant after being behind by at least five games with fewer than 10 games left, capping the remarkable rally with a three-game sweep against Texas that erased a two-game deficit.

“We’re not packing it in. We don’t do that, or we wouldn’t be here,” Oakland second baseman Cliff
Pennington said. “We’ll keep fighting until we’re done, one way or the other. We’ve been doing this all year.”

Crisp has been covering a lot of ground in the outfield this season, his third with the A’s, and throughout his career that started in Cleveland a decade ago and continued in Boston and Kansas City.

When Cabrera hit a relatively soft fly to center, the Triple Crown slugger was sure two runners were going to be stranded because he expected Crisp to make the catch, even though he was in deep center at the crack of the bat.

“We’re lucky,” Cabrera acknowledged.

The A’s deserved to win the division, coming back to beat the Rangers, and they will have earned a spot in the AL championship series if they can rally in the division series well enough to win three straight.
Oakland is down, but far from out.

Barring a setback, the A’s are expecting right-hander Brett Anderson to start in Game 3 in his first outing since straining his right oblique Sept. 19 at Detroit. The Tigers will counter with righty Anibal Sanchez, hoping he can help them advance to the ALCS for the second straight year and third time since 2006 when they swept Oakland.

“We’ve been doing this all year,” Reddick said. “We’ve got a great pitcher going, and we just need to get him some run support.”

Philip Liquori

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