By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees, spurred by the powerful pitching of CC Sabathia, beat the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 on Friday to win their Division Series 3-2 and advance to the American League Championship Series.
Sabathia, who also won the opener in the best-of-five series, gave up four hits and struck out nine in his complete-game victory.
"It is what I am here for. It is what I play the game for," Sabathia said.
"I guess I should feel a little pressure or something like that, but I don't. I feel like that every time out."
The big left-hander was backed by a run-scoring single by Raul Ibanez in the fifth, an RBI double off the wall by Ichiro Suzuki an inning later, and a long home run in the seventh by Curtis Granderson.
Baltimore mounted a serious challenge in the eighth, scoring a run and loading the bases with one out but Sabathia struck out Nate McLouth and retired J.J. Hardy on a soft grounder to end the threat.
"He's a great pitcher and we had very few opportunities against him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
"We had a shot there in the eighth, and he took it to another level, if there is such a thing."
The victory lifted the Yankees into a best-of-seven playoff against the Detroit Tigers, who will start the series in the Bronx on Saturday to determine the American League's representative in the World Series.
The National League Championship Series, which begins on Sunday, will be between the San Francisco Giants and either the Washington Nationals or defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Pitching once again dominated, as it has throughout the series, as Baltimore starter Jason Hammel also frustrated Yankee hitters early on.
McLouth got Baltimore's first hit on a line drive single leading off the fourth inning and stole second, but was stranded there.
Mark Teixeira singled to right for New York's first hit, leading off the fifth, then stole second base before scoring on a single up the middle by Ibanez.
The Orioles came within a whisker of tying it in the top of the sixth when McLouth hit a towering shot down the right-field line that came within inches of grazing the foul pole.
The ball was ruled foul on the field but after a protest from Baltimore manager Buck Showalter the umpires reviewed replays before confirming their decision.
New York doubled their lead in the sixth when Derek Jeter walked and came around to score on Ichiro Suzuki's double off the 385-foot sign in right-center. Granderson added an insurance run with a home run in the seventh to make it 3-0.
"That third run is a huge run for us and off a lefty," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who benched Alex Rodriguez for the decider.
"For Curtis, the big thing is when he swings at strikes, he is extremely dangerous
Sabathia, who had given up just one hit through seven innings, passed his toughest test in the eighth.
Lew Ford singled to scored Matt Wieters and then the bases were loaded but Sabathia regained his composure and completed the game.
"He did an unbelievable job. And he was pitching so well that I wasn't going to pull him," said Girardi.
"He is our ace. That's the bottom line. He has been there, he has done that."
(Editing by Julian Linden)