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 today in the deciding Game 5 of their American League Division Series.
With Alex Rodriguez benched, the Yankees advanced to the AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, starting Saturday night in the Bronx.
Sabathia pitched a four-hitter, wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning. It was his first career postseason complete game, and the first for the Yankees since Roger Clemens did it in 2000.
Yet it was another piece of history that this game evoked.
Baltimore again was stung on a close play in right, echoing what happened across the street at the old Yankee Stadium in the 1996 ALCS opener.
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 five of the umpires 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.
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, now a grown man, texted to The Associated Press after this play.