Facing elimination in Game 4, the Baltimore Orioles found a way to fight back in a 13-inning thriller Thursday night and force a deciding Game 5 to determine which team would face the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series beginning Saturday.
In the win-or-go-home series finale, the Yankees sent their ace, CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA—1-0, 2.08 ERA in ALDS), to the mound to face off against Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43 ERA—0-0, 3.18 ERA in ALDS) of the Orioles.
Making the national headlines prior to the start of the game was the news that New York decided to bench probable future Hall of Famer Alex Rodriguez and start Eric Chavez at third base instead.
In the end, the Yankees ended up not needing Rodriguez, as they held off Baltimore, 3-1, behind a dominant performance from Sabathia to move on to the ALCS for the 15th time since its inception in 1969.
Without further adieu, here are the grades from Game 5...
CC Sabathia and Jason Hammel both entered Game 5 looking to match Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander's Game 5 performance a night earlier against Oakland.
Through the first three innings, both pitchers had done exactly that, matching no-hit innings.
Baltimore's Nate McClouth was the first batter on either team to record a hit, singling in the fourth inning off Sabathia. It would be the last hit against Sabathia until the eighth inning.
Sabathia found himself in trouble in the eighth, allowing the first run of the game and the bases loaded with just one out.
He then proceeded to strike out McClouth and get J.J. Hardy to ground out to shortstop Derek Jeter to end the threat.
Sabathia recorded the complete game, allowing just the one run on four hits while walking two and striking out nine, extending his consecutive postseason winning streak to eight games.
Hammel, for his part, could not match Sabathia's dominance beyond the fifth inning. He allowed the first run of the game in the fifth frame when Mark Teixeira scored on a Raul Ibanez single.
The Yankees added another run off Hammel in the sixth inning on an Ichiro double that scored Jeter.
Hammel had a solid outing, pitching 5.2 innings and allowing the two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out six Yankee batters.
Yankees Starting Pitching Final Grade: A
Orioles Starting Pitching Final Grade: B-
Neither team could generate much offense for the first four-plus innings.
The Yankees finally got some scoring going in the fifth inning when Mark Teixeira took advantage of some defensive indifference by Baltimore and swiped second base to set himself up to score on Raul Ibanez's single that would follow.
New York added another run on an Ichiro double that would score Derek Jeter in the sixth inning and their final run of the game on a solo homer by Curtis Granderson in the seventh inning.
The Yankees had five hits and left three runners on base.
The Orioles were only able to score once on a single by Lew Ford that would score Matt Wieters.
Baltimore hitters managed just four hits against Sabathia and the Yankees and left four runners on base. They were 2-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Yankees Offense Final Grade: B
Orioles Offense Final Grade: C-
Not exactly a baserunning threat, Mark Teixeira found the Baltimore defense and Jason Hammel ignoring him in the fifth inning after he singled for the first Yankee hit.
Taking advantage of the indifference being shown to his presence on first, Teixeira took off for second with his first career postseason stolen base.
The steal set the Yankees up for their first run and got their offense rolling en route to what would wind up being the clinching victory, sending them to the American League Championship Series.
Final Grade for Teixeira's Base-Stealing Effort: A
Baltimore was one of baseball's best surprises all season and fought the Yankees for the division title all the way down to the wire.
The Orioles then battled Texas in the Wild Card Play-In Game and won to advance to the American League Division Series.
Facing another elimination game in Game 4, they pushed the game into 13 innings before finally coming through and forcing a Game 5.
Then, down 3-0, they finally got to Sabathia in the eighth inning and managed to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded.
They had a perfect opportunity to pull off another upset and send New York home early, but they just ran out of miracles this time.
Still, they fought all the way to the bitter end and took the American League's best team in the regular season to the brink in a winner-take-all elimination game.
Not too bad, and a great building block towards a deeper run in 2013.
Final Grade: A
It was a hard-fought series, but it is the New York Yankees heading to the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers beginning Saturday evening.
The Yankees bats just edged the Orioles in production, but CC Sabathia proved why he is the Yankees' ace and was just nasty as he went the distance.
The nail-biting series should set a precedent for some nice baseball action between the two clubs as they fight for the division title again in 2013.
Meanwhile, we get to see New York try to get back to the World Series...again.
New York Yankees Final Grade: B+
Baltimore Orioles Final Grade: B-