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CC Sabathia was brilliant in a winner-take-all Game 5 over the Baltimore Orioles with a trip to the ALCS on the line.
It's easy to take a pitcher of such consistency for granted, but it's difficult to string together words that would do CC Sabathia's importance to the Yankees justice. It began in Game 1 in Baltimore, as the ace of the staff went out there and held the Orioles in check until the offense could come through late. Tonight, the story was similar. A complete game, something he narrowly missed out on in Game 1, was exactly what a struggling offense needed. There was only one inning where it seemed like things might have been slipping away, but one run was not enough to undo eight innings of brillance from the Yankees' best pitcher.
There were four hits and two walks spread across CC's nine-inning gem. Most of that came in a stressful eighth inning, when the Orioles finally put themselves on the scoreboard by way of a Lew Ford RBI single. A slow grounder to Jeter off the bat of J.J. Hardy ended the threat and left the bases loaded. Sabathia came back out for the ninth inning and made quick work of the middle of the Orioles' lineup, adding to his strikeout total of nine for the game.
The scoring for the Yankees got started after Mark Teixeira singled for the first Yankee hit off Jason Hammel in the fifth inning. On a bum calf, he got a great jump and stole second, despite the fact that Matt Wieters was behind the plate for the O's. Tex was driven in by none other than Raul Ibanez, who continues to come through in big situations. Next inning, Derek Jeter worked a walk and came around to score on an RBI double by Ichiro Suzuki, shaking off any worry that the bone bruise that hobbled him earlier in the series was still a big deal. Curtis Granderson, who had struggled mightily all series, snapped his slump with a long home run to right field to complete the scoring.
For a series that was extremely tight from start to finish, the Yankees managed to move on thanks to the constantly strong performances from their starting pitching. They'll need to continue that in the ALCS, as they host the Detroit Tigers at the Stadium starting tomorrow night. Take the night to celebrate, because another nerve-wracking series begins tomorrow at 8 p.m., with something even bigger on the line: a trip to the World Series.