NEW YORK — Derek Lowe is very much a Yankee now, his fading career resurrected by a chance to pitch out of the bullpen and chase another championship.
But as he watched CC Sabathia pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the deciding fifth game of the American League Division Series on Friday, Lowe could not help but think of his days as a member of the Red Sox and other cold October nights with the season at stake.
“I played with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, two real aces,’’ Lowe said. “Those guys are rare in this game, but CC is one of them, and he was at his best tonight.’’
Sabathia was too much for the resilient Orioles, going nine innings as the Yankees won the series with a 3-1 victory.
The lefthander allowed four hits, all singles, walked two, and struck out nine in the best postseason performance of his career. Sabathia threw 121 pitches,
making sure the Yankees would have a rested bullpen for Game 1 of the AL Championship Series on Saturday night against Detroit.
“That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I play the game for. I guess I should feel a little pressure or something like that, but I don’t,’’ Sabathia said.
Sabathia took a 3-0 lead and a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning. His lone difficulty prior to that came in the sixth when Nate McLouth’s fly ball to right field was just inches outside the foul pole.
The foul call by right field umpire Fieldin Culbreth was reviewed and allowed to stand.
The Orioles finally scored in the eighth when a single, a walk, and Lew Ford’s RBI single made it 3-1.
With the bases loaded and one out, David Robertson was hurrying to warm up. But Sabathia struck out McLouth, and got J.J. Hardy on a grounder on which shortstop Derek Jeter charged and made a strong throw.
Sabathia looked up and roared as he walked off the mound. There were three outs to get but the Orioles were finished, their remarkable season out of comebacks.
“He took it to another level, if there is such a thing,’’ Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said.
Sabathia won both games he started in the series, allowing three runs over 17⅔ innings. With the Yankees scoring only 16 runs in the five games, he was the difference.
Yankees starters allowed nine earned runs over 39⅔ innings in the series.
Orioles starter Jason Hammel retired the first 12 batters he faced. But unlike Sabathia, he eventually cracked.
Mark Teixeira singled to start the fifth inning. The Orioles did not hold him on, knowing Teixeira is playing with a sore left calf. But he got a running lead and stole second.
“I thought it could be a big play because we needed something,’’ Teixeira said. “It was worth the chance. We talked about doing it, and when the time came I did it. The crowd was really into it because I usually don’t steal many bases. It gave us a lift.’’
The daring play paid off when Raul Ibanez singled to center, scoring Teixeira. Jeter walked and scored on a double by Ichiro Suzuki in the sixth inning. Curtis Granderson homered off Troy Patton in the seventh.
On a day they benched slumping Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees had only five hits. They were just enough.
Rodriguez, who was 2 for 16 in the series, said before the game he “wasn’t happy’’ with Joe Girardi’s decision. But the manager offered no apologies.
“He has meant a lot to the organization [and] the game of baseball over the years,’’ Girardi said. “He has been a very productive hitter. But he has struggled against righthanders in the series.’’
Rodriguez, who has five years and at least $114 million left on his contract, could spend more time on the bench against the Tigers and their hard-throwing righthanders.
“I ain’t worried about years ahead,’’ Girardi said.
Andy Pettitte will start for the Yankees against Doug Fister on Saturday.
“You know it’s going to be tough games,’’ Pettitte said. “Hopefully, give us a chance to win.’’