NEW YORK — CC Sabathia turned and looked over his right shoulder, watching intently after Nate McLouth turned on a 93 mph fastball and sent it soaring down the right-field line.
Yankees-Orioles. Playoffs. Disputed home run. Again.
McLouth’s long drive was called foul by the slimmest of margins — hello, Jeffrey Maier — and New York hung on to beat Baltimore 3-1 Friday in the deciding Game 5 of the AL division series.
Sixteen years later, the Orioles still can’t find the right stuff in the Bronx.
With Alex Rodriguez benched, the Yankees advanced to the AL championship series against the Detroit Tigers, starting tonight in the Bronx.
Sabathia pitched a four-hitter, wriggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning for his first complete game in 17 postseason starts.
The Orioles were stung on a close play in right that echoed what happened at the old Yankee Stadium in the 1996 AL championship opener.
This time, with the Orioles trailing 1-0 in the sixth, McLouth sent a 3-1 pitch deep. Eyes turned to right field umpire Fieldin Culbreth, who demonstrably waved foul with both arms.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter jogged onto the field to ask for a video review, and four umpires went down a tunnel on the third-base side examine the images on a screen near their dressing room. 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.
“I saw it go to the right of the pole,” Culbreth said. “There is netting there and it didn’t touch the netting. It did not change direction,” he added, indicating he did not think the ball grazed the pole.
A stadium usher who wouldn’t give his name, however, said he saw the ball glance off the pole.
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 texted to The Associated Press after this play.
Sabathia defeated the Orioles for the second time in six days, Raul Ibanez hit a go-ahead single in the fifth off Jason Hammel after former Baltimore high school star Mark Teixeira singled and swiped second in a rare steal. Diving second baseman Robert Andino just missed gloving Ibanez’s hit.
Ichiro Suzuki added an RBI double of the right-center field wall in the sixth. Curtis Granderson boosted the lead to 3-0 with a second-deck solo homer against Troy Patton in the seventh.
Sabathia, 4-0 in his past eight postseason starts, didn’t allow an extra-base hit. He struck out eight and walked two and matched his season high of 121 pitches.