CC Sabathia goes nine as Yankees beat Orioles, move on to ALCS

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Just as Justin Verlander pitched the Tigers past the A’s, CC Sabathia proved to be the dominant presence as the Yankees beat the Orioles 3-1 in Friday’s decisive Game 5 and advanced to the ALCS.

Sabathia, coming off a win in Game 1 in which he nearly went the distance, did go nine this time for his first complete game in 17 postseason starts. He finished the ALDS with a 1.53 ERA.

The Orioles never put together a serious threat until the eighth. though they did nearly get a run in the sixth. Nate McLouth missed a homer by inches when he pulled a ball down the right-field line; some are even insisting it tipped the foul pole on the way by, though replays were inconclusive. That would have tied the game at 1.

The eighth was more interesting. Lew Ford delivered an RBI single with one out, and thanks to Sabathia’s own mental error on a comebacker, the Orioles loaded the bases afterwards. Sabathia got out of the inning by striking out McLouth and inducing a slow grounder to short from J.J. Hardy.

Had the Yankees bullpen been better rested, Sabathia almost certainly would have departed then. However, since Rafael Soriano pitched one inning Wednesday and two innings Thursday, Sabathia stayed in. He retired Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters in order in the ninth.

Baltimore’s pitching was, once again, excellent. Jason Hammel allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings in his start. The first came after Buck Showalter’s decision not to hold Mark Teixeira on at first base in the fifth, allowing Teixeira to steal second. Raul Ibanez then hit a grounder up the middle that might have resulted in two outs had the Orioles been at double-play depth. Since they weren’t, it proved to be an RBI single.

The Yankees also scored on a Derek Jeter walk and an Ichiro Suzuki RBI double in the sixth and on Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the seventh. Granderson went 2-for-3 today after opening the series 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts.

The Bombers will host the Tigers in the Bronx when the ALCS starts on Saturday. With both aces expended, Doug Fister and Andy Pettitte are the expected starters.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.