BALTIMORE - Oriole Park at Camden Yards was as loud as it's ever been, if not louder. As rain delayed the start of the AL division series between the Orioles and Yankees Sunday night by nearly two hours, there was concern the weather would wash out the fan base.
Fans packed the inner areas of the stadium and like a swarm of orange worker bees, made their way to seats. There wasn't an empty seat in sight as 47,841 bodies packed Oriole Park – the largest crowd all year.
After the national anthem, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Perry Hall High School shooting survivor Daniel Borowy. The teen was accompanied on the mound by school guidance counselor Jesse Wasmer, who was credited with jumping in front of the gunman and wrestling him to the ground to end the incident. It was an emotional moment for many in attendance, and as Daniel walked off the field cheers for his recovery quickly turned into screams for an Oriole victory as fans spun orange towels as far as the eye could see and the Oriole Bird danced on the infield.
The Yankees got on the scoreboard early in the top of the first inning. Derek Jeter opened the inning with a single to center, and he was later batted in on a double by Ichiro Suzuki.
The Orioles would later catch the Yankees and take the lead in the bottom of the third inning on a hard-hit single to right field that drew a seat-shaking roar from the crowd and scored runners on second and third.
Despite Oriole starting pitcher Jason Hammel not playing in several weeks, he looked strong on the mound. By the fifth inning, he had thrown more than 70 pitches. The only other run he gave up in the game came in the fourth inning on a long single by Mark Teixeira. Alex Rodriguez scored from second and Nick Swisher moved to third. Hammel got out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts of Jeter and Suzuki that brought the sea of orange to its feet.
As the game progressed, chants of "Let's go O's!" often drowned out game announcers. A majority of Oriole fans were on the edge of their seats or standing, ready to vocalize support of plays and players. Had they not already been standing, they would have gotten up in the top of the sixth as Hammel left the field. He finished the game with an impressive 112 pitches and five strikeouts. It was his first start since injuring his knee in a game against Tampa on September 11.
In a pregame interview, Hammel admitted he was comfortable with the thought of pitching in the preseason, despite his not being on the mound in several weeks. He said he was thankful for confidence in him shown by manager Buck Showalter. To those that doubt him and the rest of the Orioles, he had a message.
"It really means nothing to us," Hammel said. "It's a bunch of people telling us that we couldn't do anything. So, obviously, we were supposed to finish last. That didn't happen. We weren't supposed to get to the playoffs. That didn't happen. It's something that we don't really look at. We're just going out, playing baseball, having fun, pulling for each other and getting contributions from every facet of the game."
Showalter spoke highly of Hammel, who he replaced with left-hander Troy Patton. He credited Hammel with keeping the Orioles consistent with the Yankees and the arm of their starter, CC Sabathia.
"Jason was great. We matched him (Sabathia)," Showalter said. "As good as Sabathia was, Jason matched him. We had a great defensive game."
Patton was later replaced by Darren O'Day, known for having one of the nastiest deliveries in the MLB, in the top of the seventh.
As the score remained tied 2-2, Showalter continued to make pitching changes. In the eighth, Brian Matusz was brought into the game. Matusz got through the inning quickly after a ground out to Robert Andino at second base and two strikeouts. In the ninth, right-handed closer Jim Johnson was brought into the game.
On Johnson's third pitch,the game took a big turn in favor of the Yankees. Russell Martin hit a homerun deep to left field on a fastball that came across the plate above his belt.
"Any time you can help your team win, whether it's on defense or offense, you're happy about it," Martin said after the game. "...I love being in that situation."
The homer was Martin's second career postseason homerun.
"It's not surprising, because he works hard," Yankees starter and winning pitcher CC Sabathia said of Martin's hit after the game.
The Yankees scored again on a Suzuki swinging bunt that scored Eduardo Nunez to give them the 4-2 advantage.
After Alex Rodriguez's third strikeout of the game, Robinson Cano came to the plate, and with a two-run double, extended the Yankees lead, 6-2. Then, another Baltimore pitching change – Tommy Hunter.
With the Orioles' pitching change also came a change in the crowd. Many turned their caps for the rally, many more left the stadium. A crowd that had been lively and intimidating gradually became more
and more silent.
Hunter was able to help the Orioles get out of the top of the inning, but it wasn't before a Nick Swisher sacrifice fly brought Cano home and extended the Yankees' lead to five runs.
The bottom of the ninth was lacking for the Orioles. Manny Machado grounded out. Chris Davis struck out, but a double by Lew Ford gave those Orioles fans still in the stadium a reason to stay.
A Ryan Flahtery strikeout ended the game with the Yankees taking the win, 7-2.
CC Sabathia took the win on the mound for the Yankees as he pitched through eight innings. He threw 120 pitches for 80 strikes and seven strikeouts.
The Orioles will definitely be looking to improve and build momentum in Monday's game scheduled for 8 p.m. It will be the final game of the AL division series to be played in Baltimore.
"Our guys get it," Showalter said of the next game in the series. "This is a very realistic club that lives in reality. But, they also understand urgency. You can sit here and say you got beat by a real good quality pitcher tonight, but that's why teams like that are playing this time of year. We have good quality pitchers too."
"I don't have any doubt what type of mentality our guys will have as we go forward in this series. ...To me, what our club has gone through this year and they way they've responded, that's a real easy question to answer."