What it means: That the Yankees are headed to the ALCS after a 3-1 win in which they didn't so much beat the Baltimore Orioles as survive them. But the unusual, for this series, combination of a pair of timely hits (by Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki) and a home run by Curtis Granderson, of all people, provided all the run support CC Sabathia needed on a chilly October evening.
The downside? That Sabathia will only be able to pitch fully rested once in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, in Game 4 next Wednesday, but it doesn't matter. Without CC, they probably don't get there at all.
Ace's up: With the season riding on one game, Sabathia came through with a big one, helped by a huge eighth-inning RISP fail by the Orioles. CC goes the distance, allows four hits -- only one through the first seven innings -- and just one run, but escaped by the skin of his teeth in the eighth when the Orioles loaded the bases with one out but only came away with one run. Sabathia had a huge strikeout of Nate McLouth and then got J.J. Hardy, who had a .429 lifetime batting average against him, to bounce out to Derek Jeter to end the inning and preserve the Yankees' 3-1 lead.
Grand recovery: Granderson, who came into the game batting .063, had two hits, including a seventh-inning solo home run that increased the Yankees' lead to 3-0, justifying Joe Girardi's decision to keep him in the lineup.
Ichi-whoa!: Suzuki's double off the wall in right-center scored Jeter with the Yankees' second run of the game with one out in the sixth inning. Ichiro was batting .182 in the ALDS before the hit.
Stop, thief: The Yankees stole the first run of the game, or more correctly, Mark Teixeira did, by stealing his first-ever base in a postseason game after singling to lead off the fifth. Ibanez then singled in Teixeira to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
Perfect doubles: Sabathia and his Orioles counterpart, Jason Hammel, each started out retiring the first nine batters they faced. McLouth broke up Sabathia's perfecto with a single leading off the fourth. Hammel held out one more inning until Teixeira led off the fifth with a single.
Game of inches: McLouth's sixth-inning fly ball curled around the right-field foul pole so closely it merited a video review by the umpires, who determined the shot was foul by no more than an inch or two. In fact, the replay seemed to show the ball might have grazed the pole on the way down. But no matter. Sabathia struck McLouth out with the next pitch.
Long time between rests: The last time Alex Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup for a playoff game for which he was eligible was 1995, when he was a 20-year-old Seattle Mariner. For what it's worth, A-Rod's replacement in the lineup, Eric Chavez, went 0-for-3 with two Ks.
Wide-open spaces: The Stadium was shockingly empty during the pregame introductions and right up through first pitch, with less than half the seats occupied. By the fourth inning, the place had filled in somewhat but large swaths of empty seats remained in the outfield and, of course, inside the moat. The announced attendance of 47,081 was the smallest crowd of the three games here, nearly 3,500 fewer than attended Game 3 on Wednesday night.