BALTIMORE -- The Yankees and Orioles were as evenly matched as two clubs can be in the regular season, so it was entirely predictable that they would be tied entering the ninth inning of Game 1 of their Division Series Sunday night.
Somewhat less predictable was that the Yankees suddenly would blow the game open -- against one of the premier relievers in the league.
Russell Martin led off the ninth with a tiebreaking home run off closer Jim Johnson to spark a five-run inning and CC Sabathia pitched an 82/3-inning gem as the Yankees earned a 7-2 victory in front of 47,841 at Camden Yards.
Andy Pettitte faces Wei-Yin Chen Monday night in Game 2 as the Yankees try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, which then will shift to the Bronx.
"You want one, but now we're going to get greedy and ask for two,'' said Mark Teixeira, who went 2-for-4, including an RBI single in the fourth off Jason Hammel. "One win's important, but we definitely want that second one [Monday night].''
Johnson, who set a club record with 51 saves and posted a 0.36 ERA in the final 26 games, fell behind Martin 2-and-0. Martin -- who hit .277 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in his last 24 games of the regular season -- then sent a 93-mph fastball into the seats in left for his second postseason home run.
"I definitely wasn't thinking home run,'' said Martin, who hit .179 with a .300 OBP in the first half and went .242/.321 in the second half. "I got a good count to hit in. He just left a fastball up and I put good wood on it.''
Said Joe Girardi, "He has really turned it around. Huge hit tonight.''
Singles by Raul Ibañez and Derek Jeter then put runners on first and third with none out, and Ichiro Suzuki beat out a tapper down the first-base line for an RBI single that made it 4-2. Alex Rodriguez struck out, but Robinson Cano (24-for-39 to end the regular season) lined a two-run double down the leftfield line to knock out Johnson and give the Yankees a 6-2 lead. Nick Swisher's sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter made it 7-2.
"Johnson's been as good as any closer in the game all season long,'' said Jeter, who had two hits to extend his all-time record for postseason hits to 193. "We were fortunate to score those runs off of him.''
Sabathia, 0-2 with a 6.38 ERA in three starts against the Orioles in 2012, continued the roll he got on in his last three starts of the regular season, allowing two runs and eight hits. Girardi lifted him after his 120th pitch resulted in Lew Ford's two-out double in the ninth.
"I always want to stay in,'' said Sabathia, who allowed only a two-run single by Nate McLouth in the third. "You always want to try and finish what you start. Just one of those things.''
Said Girardi: "I thought he gave us a great performance. He went out and won the game for us.''
Sabathia, with some help, pitched his way out of two jams that could have made it a different game.
Chris Davis led off the fifth with a single and Ford chopped one out in front of the plate. Martin picked up the ball and threw low to first, but Teixeira scooped the ball out of the dirt, nipping Ford by inches. "Huge,'' Sabathia said of the work by Martin and Teixeira on the play. "I had already conceded that that was going to be a hit.''
Said Teixeira: "If that ball gets by me, it's second and third with nobody out and they might have a huge inning. I got a little lucky. It was a really tough hop and I just stuck with it. But I could not let that ball get by me because it's a big inning if I do.''
In the eighth, Sabathia allowed a leadoff double to J.J. Hardy but stranded him, starting by getting the dangerous Adam Jones to wave at a darting 81-mph slider.
Jeter, who led the majors with 216 hits this season, banged Hammel's second pitch of the night back up the middle for a single. With Jeter running, Ichiro, in his first playoff at-bat since 2001 with the Mariners, slapped a double into the gap in left-center for a 1-0 lead. Teixeira's RBI single off the top of the rightfield wall in the fourth tied the score at 2. Then Sabathia did the rest.
"He was unbelievable today,'' Jeter said. "This game was big for us, but it doesn't mean anything unless we come out tomorrow night and win.''