BALTIMORE – The Orioles and their fans were loving their first home playoff date in 15 years, as Camden Yards rocked before the storyline became all too familiar.
In the end, the archnemesis big bully Yankees spoiled the fun. That's a tale they've seen before in these parts.
Baltimore's orange party was put on hold by a Yankees' ninth-inning outburst that started with a Russell Martin home run and silenced an all-Orioles crowd. The Yankees, thanks to Martin and his brilliant batterymate CC Sabathia, won Game 1 of the Division Series, 7-2. So suddenly Baltimore's Cinderella season is in need of another miracle or three.
The Orioles played the Yankees even through 18 games and eight inning before the reality-raising 5-run Yankees outburst put a temporary crimp in Baltimore's storybook hopes or restored order, depending on one's perspective. The victory, won as the clock struck midnight, put the favored Yankees into a commanding position over the Orioles, one of the greatest surprise stories in decades.
The crowd, which reveled in their rare October action, was rocking before Martin's home run to lead off the ninth off Orioles reliever Jim Johnson. Normally, there's a big Yankees contingent at Orioles game here, less than a four-hour train ride from New York. But this was a special hometown occasion, the first playoff game here since the days of Davey Johnson, Robbie Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro and Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr., who was up in the TV booth for TBS.
This Orioles team was more of the no-name variety.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, arguably the biggest star of Baltimore's season, nicely mixed and matched, then logically called upon the infallible Johnson to start the ninth with the game tied. Martin, who rarely caught Sabathia's outings during the season, lofted the home run into the left field pavilion to greet Johnson before a string of hits finished the Orioles.
Sabathia wound up going 8 2/3 innings and throwing 120 pitches, a performance befitting an ace, as he dueled Jason Hammel and a host of Orioles relievers. The Orioles are writing a wonderful story starring anonymous players. But they will need to pull off a few more surprises now.