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New York - Yankees-Orioles. Playoffs. Disputed home run to right field. Yankees win.
CC Sabathia and his New York teammates saw Nate McLouth's long drive called foul by the slimmest of margins - hello, Jeffrey Maier - and then hung on to beat Baltimore 3-1 Friday in the deciding Game 5 of the AL division series.
With Alex Rodriguez benched, the Yankees advanced to the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers, starting tonight in the Bronx (8 p.m., TBS).
"It is still a long way to go," Sabathia said. "I still got hopefully three or four more starts. So the job is not done yet."
Sabathia pitched a four-hitter, wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning. It was his first complete game in 17 postseason starts, and the first for the Yankees since Roger Clemens did it in 2000.
Yet it was another piece of history that this game evoked.
The Orioles were in a foul mood, stung on a close play in right that echoed what happened across the street at the old Yankee Stadium in the 1996 AL championship opener, on a fly ball that still stirs emotions in Baltimore.
This time, with the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the sixth, McLouth sent a 3-1 pitch deep down the right-field line. Eyes turned to right field umpire Fieldin Culbreth, who demonstrably waved foul with both arms.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to ask for a video review, and most of the umpiring crew went down a tunnel to examine the images. When they ran back onto the field about two minutes later, they didn't make any signal - meaning the original call stood. McLouth struck out on the next pitch, ending the inning.
"I saw it go to the right of the pole," Culbreth said. "There is netting there and it didn't touch the netting. It did not change direction," he added, indicating he did not think the ball grazed the pole.
Added crew chief Brian Gorman: "We saw the same thing on the replay. There was no evidence to overturn the decision."
Showalter? Not sure.
"I couldn't tell. It was real close," he said.
McLouth wondered, too, what the umps would decide.
"It started off fair and it was just hooking a little bit. I thought it was foul just in game speed," McLouth said. "A couple of people mentioned it might've ticked the pole, but he was way closer than I was and I was satisfied after they went down and looked at the replay that it was foul."
Steven Ellis, a fan from the Broad Channel section of Queens, caught the ball with his Yankee cap in the second deck.
"It was foul all the way, never hit the pole," he said.
Ada Cruz, sitting behind Ellis, added: "No way, no way. I watched it and he caught it."
A stadium usher who wouldn't give his name, however, said he saw the ball glance off the pole.
Back in 1996, the 12-year-old Maier reached over the wall above right fielder Tony Tarasco and deflected Derek Jeter's fly ball. Umpire Richie Garcia called it a home run, which tied the score 4-all in the eighth inning, and the Yankees went on to win in the 11th.
"Just watching at home, I promise," Maier texted to The Associated Press after this play.
Sabathia defeated the Orioles for the second time in six days, Raul Ibanez hit a go-ahead single in the fifth off Jason Hammel and Ichiro Suzuki added an RBI double in the sixth.
Curtis Granderson boosted the lead to 3-0 with a second-deck solo homer against Troy Patton in the seventh, and the Yankees advanced following their decision to bench the slumping Rodriguez, their $275 million third baseman.
"He didn't pitch all five, but it certainly felt like it, didn't it?" Showalter said.
Sabathia, who improved to 4-0 in his last eight postseason starts, didn't allow an extra-base hit. He struck out eight and walked two and matched his season high of 121 pitches.
He took a one-hit shutout into the eighth but allowed Matt Wieters' leadoff single and Manny Machado's walk. Mark Reynolds struck out, and Lew Ford - starting at DH in place of Jim Thome - hit an RBI single.
Robert Andino hit a bouncer to the third-base side that Sabathia gloved, but Eric Chavez left third uncovered and Sabathia's throw to second was late, leaving the bases loaded. McLouth struck out on a changeup and Sabathia escaped when J.J. Hardy hit a slow bouncer to shortstop that Jeter, playing on a sore left ankle, charged and scooped elegantly before throwing to first just in time.
Sabathia pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, finishing a 121-pitch effort as Wieters hit a comebacker. The Yankees ran to celebrate on the third-base side of the mound and the Orioles walked off slowly and somberly.
New York doesn't have much time to get ready for the Tigers. Andy Pettitte, the career postseason leader with 19 wins, starts for the Yankees against Doug Fister.
"I came back to hopefully help this club get into this position," Pettitte said.