BALTIMORE — CC Sabathia, Russell Martin, and the New York Yankees crashed a party that was 15 years in the making.
Martin led off the ninth inning with a tiebreaking home run off Jim Johnson, Sabathia turned in a sparkling pitching performance, and the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles, 7-2, Sunday night in the opener of their AL Division Series.
Sabathia allowed two runs and eight hits in 8⅔ innings to help the Yankees take the edge off the Orioles’ first home playoff game since 1997. The husky lefthander went 0-2 in three starts against Baltimore during the regular season, but in this one he returned to form and improved his lifetime record against the Orioles to 17-4.
Sabathia is 6-1 with the Yankees in the postseason, 4-0 in the division series.
‘‘Fastball command was good, worked off that,’’ Sabathia said. ‘‘Throwing the ball pretty good getting the corners. Tried to stay out there and make some pitches.’’
With the score 2-all, Martin drove a 2-0 pitch from Johnson into the left-field seats. It was the first of four straight hits off Johnson, who led the majors with 51 saves. Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter followed with singles, Ichiro Suzuki drove in a run with a swinging bunt and one out later, Robinson Cano hit a two-run double.
In his seven prior appearances against New York, Johnson allowed one run in seven innings and had three saves. Nick Swisher knocked in the fifth run of the ninth with a sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
‘‘It’s tough. It’s just tough going, period,’’ Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ‘‘Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again. Tonight just wasn’t his night.’’
Game 2 will be played Monday night.
The start of the game was delayed by rain for 2 hours, 26 minutes, and that did nothing to lessen the enthusiasm of the 47,841 fans who endured 14 straight losing season while waiting for the Orioles to play a postseason game at Camden Yards.
For eight innings, the sellout crowd was treated to tense duel that typified the competition between two division foes that split 18 games during the regular season and finished two games apart in the standings.
Orioles starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs, four hits, and four walks in 5⅔ innings. The righthander underwent knee surgery in July and returned to pitch two games in September before his right knee began to bother him again. After working his way back into form, Hammel donned a knee brace and gave Baltimore a solid 112-pitch outing in his first start in nearly a month.
New York missed an excellent chance to take the lead in the seventh. After Troy Patton walked Martin and Ibanez, Darren O'Day entered and Jeter dropped down a perfect two-strike sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Suzuki hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Robert Andino, who threw home. Matt Wieters grabbed the ball on the short hop and tagged out Martin. O'Day then struck out Alex Rodriguez.
Neither team got a runner in scoring position again until J.J. Hardy started the Baltimore eighth with a double. He did not advance.
Immediately after Orioles fans cheered and waved their orange towels following a first-pitch strike by Hammel to open the game, the Yankees went to work. Jeter hit a leadoff single and Suzuki followed with an RBI double into the gap in left-center. But Suzuki was thrown out trying to steal third, and Hammel settled down by striking out Rodriguez and retiring Cano on a broken-bat fly to right.
Sabathia retired the first six batters he faced without allowing a ball out of the infield, then ran into trouble in the third inning. Chris Davis led off with a single, Lew Ford singled, and both runners moved up on a bunt before Nate McLouth bounced a two-run single into right field for a 2-1 lead.
New York tied it in the fourth. After Hammel walked two of the first three batters, Mark Teixeira ripped a liner off the right-field scoreboard, bringing home a run. Teixeira — who recently returned from a strained left calf — was thrown out at second by Davis.