BALTIMORE — Sometimes, postseason experience isn’t all that important.
How else to explain the Baltimore Orioles beating the playoff-tested New York Yankees, and rookie Wei-Yin Chen outpitching 40-year-old Andy Pettitte?
With Chen leading the way, the Orioles squeezed out a 3-2 victory Monday night to even their AL Division Series at one game apiece.
Chris Davis drove in two runs for the wild-card Orioles, who used the same formula that got them into the postseason for the first time in 15 years: a magnificent bullpen and an ability to win tight games. Baltimore was 29-9 in one-run decisions during the regular season and 74-0 when leading after seven innings.
Major league saves leader Jim Johnson, roughed up for five runs in a Game 1 loss, came back to pitch a perfect ninth to close it out.
The rest of the best-of-five series is at Yankee Stadium, beginning with Game 3 on Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda will start for AL East champion New York against rookie Miguel Gonzalez.
“It means everything,” Davis said of the win. “You definitely don’t want to go into New York in a five-game series down two games. This is big – having the day off tomorrow, hopefully building some momentum, and we can take that into New York.”
Chen gave up two runs, one earned, and eight hits over 6 innings. The Taiwan native, who pitched previously in Japan, was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four outings against New York this season, including two in September in which he yielded a total of 11 runs over 11 innings.
“I thought he pitched inside pretty effectively tonight to some of our right-handed hitters,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It seemed like Baltimore and us have kind of gone back and forth all year, and that’s what we did here.”
The teams split the season series 9-9.
Chen left with a 3-2 lead, and the bullpen made it stand up. Johnson retired Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki on grounders and struck out Alex Rodriguez to end it in front of a rollicking crowd at Camden Yards.
Pettitte, whose 19 wins and 43 starts are the most in postseason history, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. He came out of retirement before this season to pitch again in the playoffs, and although he was effective, Chen was better.
Pettitte, however, got little offensive backing. New York stranded 10 and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
New York went ahead in the first inning thanks to Suzuki’s deft dancing at home plate.
Suzuki circled around the batter’s box and juked around Orioles catcher Matt Wieters’ tag to touch the plate and put the Yankees ahead 1-0.
After Davis hit a two-run single to put Baltimore up 2-1 in the third inning, Wieters led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Mark Reynolds to make the score 3-1.
But New York came right back in the seventh inning.
Eduardo Nunez got a double when Davis couldn’t catch his blooper to right, and Jeter followed with an RBI single to make it 3-2. After Suzuki hit into a fielder’s choice, Darren O’Day replaced Chen and struck out Rodriguez as Suzuki stole second. Brian Matusz came in and issued an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to set up a matchup with Nick Swisher.
Swisher was 1 for his past 32 in postseason play with runners in scoring position. A wild pitch moved up the runners, but Swisher hit a routine fly ball to left.
Pettitte retired the first eight batters before Robert Andino hit a bloop single with two outs in the third. Nate McLouth also singled, and a four-pitch walk to J.J. Hardy loaded the bases for Davis, who lined a single to right.
Adam Jones followed by grounding a single just beyond the reach of Jeter at shortstop, but Hardy stopped at third after failing to spot third-base coach DeMarlo Hale waving him home. Wieters then popped out with the bases loaded.