But the Orioles took a mighty punch to the gut on its home turf, losing 7-2 to the Yankees at Camden Yards.
Yankees left-handed ace CC Sabathia looked like a man on a mission, and Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel appeared to have no rust whatsoever after climbing back from a knee-injury that has plagued him this year.
This game was filled with stout defensive plays, like Mark Reynolds hot-shot snags at first base and Matt Wieters' scoop and tag at the plate to keep the game tied in the seventh inning.
While several players deserve recognition in this affair, five studs stood well above and beyond the rest.
Talk about ice in one’s veins, Sabathia pitched one of the most economical games in his career.
He had all his pitches working nicely, keeping Baltimore’s batters (minus Chris Davis) off balance most of the night.
Sabathia nearly pitched the first complete playoff game of his career in this one. In 8.2 innings of work, Sabathia surrendered two earned runs on eight hits. He struck out seven.
As stated earlier, Hammel looked to be in midseason form in this game.
Wearing a knee-brace with pins in his previously injured knee, Hammel attacked the strike zone with incredible confidence.
While not quite as economical with his pitch count, Hammel gave the Orioles 5.2 strong innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits while walking four.
More importantly, Hammel left this game healthy. This bodes well for the Orioles going forward.
The Birds' right-handed sidewinder Darren O’Day has been a stud pretty much every other day for Baltimore this season. Why should the postseason be any different?
O’Day had his hands full when he entered the game with runners on first and second with no out in the top of the seventh inning.
But true to form, O’Day got Derek Jeter out on a sacrifice bunt. Then, with runners on second and third, O’Day got Ichiro Suzuki to ground out to second baseman Robert Andino. Andino threw home to Matt Wieters, who made a spectacular scoop and tag to get Russell Martin on a close play at the plate.
Cool as a cucumber, O’Day proceeded to strike out Alex Rodriguez to get the Orioles out of the inning.
It is indisputable that Orioles right fielder Chris Davis has had an excellent first full season in the majors.
But over the past month, this guy has been unreal. Davis continued his run of excellence in the first game of the ALDS, going 2-for-3 at the plate.
He also made a nice catch in the right field “Houdini” corner at Camden Yards off the bat of Curtis Granderson. This play got the Orioles out of a nail-biter of an inning that kept the game tied at two apiece.
How can one not give a stud award to Yankees catcher Russell Martin?
After making some terrific stops behind the dish to keep Orioles baserunners from moving up, he broke the deadlock with a monster home run in the ninth inning off the normally ironclad closer Jim Johnson.
This opened the floodgates to an inning that would watch the Yankees put up five runs.
Sabathia slammed the door from there as New York would go on to win Game 1.