By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The New York Yankees left it late to dampen the Baltimore Orioles' first post-season appearance in 15 years with a 7-2 victory in the rain-delayed opener of their American League Division Series on Sunday.
New York erupted for five runs in the ninth inning, snapping a tense 2-2 tie and spoiling the party for the 47,841 orange-clad fans on a chilly night at a sold-out Camden Yards.
Russell Martin opened the inning by knocking a 91 mph belt-high, fast ball from Orioles' All-Star reliever Jim Johnson into the left field seats.
"We've always thought he's a very good hitter and we saw him get off to a really tough start, and he has really turned it around," New York manager Joe Girardi told reporters of Martin.
"He was huge in the month of September for us. Huge hit tonight. He's got a lot of power. He packs a lot of power... and he's capable of doing it."
Martin's tie-breaking homer was followed by an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki, a two-run double by Robinson Cano and a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher.
Southpaw CC Sabathia got the win for New York, pitching 8 2/3 innings, before giving way to reliever David Robinson for the final out of a game that started two-and-a-half hours later than scheduled due to intermittent rain.
"I pitch to my strength, attacking in, and just going off my fastball command, and it was working today," Sabathia said. "The changeup was working really well.
"These guys know what I am trying to do. I've faced them a lot. I was able just to execute tonight."
Johnson, whose 51 saves led the majors, took the loss after giving up five runs while getting only one batter out.
"It's just tough going, period," Orioles manager Buck Showalter lamented. "There's not much margin for error. Jimmy has been great for us all year and will be again.
"Tonight just wasn't his night. Gave up really one hard‑hit ball."
Game Two of the best-of-five series is also in Baltimore on Monday.
The Yanks wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, taking a 1-0 lead in the first on a single up the middle by Derek Jeter followed by a run-scoring double into the left-center gap by Ichiro.
Baltimore, however, took a 2-1 lead in the third when Nate McLouth lined a single to right, scoring Chris Davis and Lew Ford.
New York tied the score in the next inning when Mark Teixeira lined a fastball from starter Jason Hammel off the wall in right field, scoring Cano from second.
Showalter said his club could not afford to lose on Monday and need to win all three games when the series shifts to New York two days later.
"I understand what time of year it is...," he said. "Our guys get it. This is a very realistic club that lives in reality but they also understand the sense of urgency."
(Editing by John O'Brien)