The Orioles were that persistent.
One last time, the surprising and stubborn Orioles forced the Yankees to give everything they had to fend them off Friday night. Finally, New York clinched the American League Division Series with a 3-1 Game 5 victory.
Andy Pettite will start ALCS Game 1 against the Tigers.
The win required a masterful complete-game performance by ace CC Sabathia, a surprising stolen base by slugger Mark Teixiera, a little good fortune on a foul ball call that may never be made entirely clear, and an old-fashioned late home run from slumping slugger Curtis Granderson, who was kept in the lineup while Alex Rodriguez was benched.
"You know, they're a very good club and they're a very resilient club," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the Orioles, who had split the previous 22 games against New York. "You have a bunch of young kids over there that just play the game the right way and play hard.
"It's an accomplishment for both clubs, because they never went away," Girardi later added. "People thought they were going to go away; they never went away. And I am very proud of our club for staying in."
Denied a playoff appearance for 15 years or a lead in the AL East in the second half no matter how hard they charged, the Orioles fought to the last out, even when Sabathia (2-0) had appeared to finally put them to sleep.
"They have a very well-deserved rest," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his players. "... And that was a challenge competing against (the Yankees). We just couldn't quite get over the hump."
Even after a just-missed home run by Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth was ruled foul in the sixth -- a play that couldn't help but stir the Jeffrey Maier demons for Orioles fans -- and a 3-0 Yankees lead for Sabathia after seven one-hit innings, Baltimore rallied once more.
Matt Wieters led off the eighth with the Orioles' second hit of the game and Manny Machado drew a walk. Sabathia battled past a 3-1 count to strike out Mark Reynolds -- who homered four times in three games at Yankee Stadium in September -- for the first out.
But designated hitter Lew Ford singled in a run past a diving Derek Jeter at shortstop to make it 3-1.
Robert Andino then hit an appropriately named Baltimore chop in front of the mound and Sabathia's throw to second for the force was late, loading the bases for McLouth.
In the sixth, McLouth had seemingly hit a game-tying home run to right, to make it 1-1, but it was ruled foul. Sixteen years after the infamous fan interference play in which Yankees fan Maier stole a ball in the field of play that was ruled a home run for Jeter, the umpires this time had a chance to review the play with instant replay.
But the technology was not especially helpful, as the repeated viewings made it difficult to definitively ascertain whether the ball had just barely nicked the foul pole. The umpires later said the ball didn't appear to deflect or hit the foul pole netting and so there was no reason to overturn the call.
"Someone said it nicked the poke, but that didn't beat us," Showalter said, adding he was grateful they reviewed the play.
McLouth then struck out.
But now he had another shot in the eighth, with the bases loaded and the fans at Yankee Stadium roaring.
But Sabathia geared up and struck him out on a cutter, tying his previous postseason game career high with his eighth strikeout.
J.J. Hardy then hit a slow roller to Jeter, whose bruised foot didn't allow him to play the field in Game 4. Jeter charged and fired to first, just nipping Hardy.
Sabathia then pitched a perfect ninth to wrap it up, including his career-high ninth strikeout. Though he threw 121 pitches and had also thrown 8 2/3 innings to win Game 1, he said there was no need to have a "conversation" about returning for the ninth. With the Yankees set to play again Saturday, he wanted to spare the bullpen.
"It is what I am here for," Sabathia, who battled injuries in the second half, said of pitching under pressure. "It is what I play the game for. I guess I should feel, you know, a little pressure or something like that, but I don't."
After a season full of a home run-or-bust offense, the Yankees broke through against Orioles starter Jason Hammel (0-1) unconventionally.
After the Yankees were no-hit for four innings, Teixeira led off the fifth with a single to right. The Yankees' slugger, who was out for most of the stretch run with a calf injury, stunned the Orioles and the crowd by stealing second base.
"We talked about it a little bit yesterday and a little bit today that if the opportunity presented itself, they're not holding me on ... I thought we needed a little spark," Teixeira said. "I thought we needed a guy in scoring position and I took a chance."