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.

Steven Souza Jr. exits game after injuring his hand on a hit by pitch

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Rays’ right fielder Steven Souza Jr. left Saturday’s game after getting hit on the left hand by a pitch from Blue Jays’ right-hander Joe Biagini in the seventh inning. The pitch appeared to hit the top of Souza Jr.’s hand, causing the outfielder to crumple at the plate and requiring assistance from assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker as he exited the field. Postgame reports from the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin revealed that Souza Jr. sustained a left hand contusion and is scheduled to undergo further evaluation on Sunday.

While the diagnosis isn’t as bad as it could be, it’s still a tough break for the right fielder, who missed 40 days of the 2015 season after sustaining a fracture in his left hand on another hit by pitch. The team has yet to announce any concrete timetable for Souza Jr.’s return, though manager Kevin Cash indicated that they’ll be taking things day to day for the time being.

Souza Jr. is batting .326/.398/.543 with four home runs and 17 RBI through 104 PA in 2017. He went 1-for-2 with a base hit and a walk prior to his departure during Saturday’s 4-1 loss.

Video: Brett Gardner goes deep for his first and second home runs of 2017

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It’s been a slow start to the season for Yankees’ outfielder Brett Gardner, who entered Saturday’s matinee against the Orioles with a .188/.316/.234 batting line, three doubles and five stolen bases in his first 76 PA of the year. That all changed in the first inning of Saturday’s game, when Gardner skied a leadoff home run to right field:

Orioles’ right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez couldn’t find his footing against the Yankees in the second inning, either. Gardner returned for his second home run of the season, a three-run shot to lift New York 5-0 over Baltimore:

Measured at 411 feet in the right field bullpen, the left fielder’s blast marked the seventh home run hit by a Yankee this series. According to the club’s PR department, it’s also the first multi-home run game Gardner has recorded since September 2015. The Yankees currently lead the Orioles 7-0 through four innings.