This Orioles team has been different all season, defying outside expectations by sticking together and buying in to manager Buck Showalter's way. And while the O's dutifully stood by their lockers after Sunday's loss and swore they would rely on the resiliency that has gotten them this far, there was still skepticism as to how this club would handle bouncing back on such a big stage.
"[It] was about as big a win as you can possibly get," center fielder Adam Jones said of the Orioles' ability to knock off Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte, the all-time postseason leader in wins.
"We got through Texas knowing that we had to win 11 games, and starting out winning three is hard," said Showalter, whose club is 2-1 in the postseason. "We know it's a tough task ahead of us, but you like the mathematics of it after tonight. At least you're one step closer."
Chen anchored the team's efforts, matching Pettitte for most of the evening before exiting to a standing ovation after a career-high 112-pitch outing that lasted into the seventh inning. Right fielder Chris Davis delivered a key two-out, two-run single in the third with Mark Reynolds' sixth-inning RBI single the difference.
Johnson, who led the Majors with 51 saves, reverted back to his old ways after a fabulous four-out appearance from lefty Brian Matusz to improve the Orioles to an astounding 76-0 when leading after seven innings.
"He's pretty even-keeled," Orioles reliever Darren O'Day said of Johnson. "You always know what you are going to get from Jim. After the game last night a lot of guys would have been feeling sorry for themselves. But Jim wasn't. He was still laughing at my stupid jokes. So I knew he wasn't in the tank or anything. He's been doing that all year when he struggles, which has only happened a few times. He was really sharp."
So was Pettitte, the all-time leader in postseason games. The 40-year-old retired eight straight before the Orioles broke through for a pair of two-out runs in the third. The O's loaded the bases on hits from Robert Andino and Nate McLouth and, after Pettitte walked J.J. Hardy on four pitches, Davis sent a ball into right field for a two-run single to give the O's a 2-1 lead.
Catcher Matt Wieters doubled to start the sixth and give the O's their third consecutive leadoff runner, and Reynolds made sure it didn't go to waste in sending Pettitte's first pitch into right field for an RBI single to push the lead to 3-1.
"I just left [Davis] a ball right in the middle of the zone to hit and that was a serious mistake by me in that situation," Pettitte said. "That pretty much cost us the game. Mark did a good job later in the game when they had a runner on second, inside-outing the ball trying to get the guy to third base. We had Robby [Cano] up the middle, so just a really good piece of hitting."
Chen, the only Orioles pitcher to make more than 20 starts this season, made the runs stand up as the 27-year-old was superb in his first career postseason start. Working on six days' rest, Chen allowed one earned run over 6 1/3 innings, scattering eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
"I didn't want to think too much," Chen said through his interpreter Tim Lin. "I just wanted to face one batter, one batter and another batter. I didn't want to think too much, and I just kept going."
He had 96 pitches to start the seventh -- having allowed only an unearned run -- and New York inched closer on Derek Jeter's RBI to left field. Chen exited after Ichiro Suzuki's fielder's choice, tipping his hat to the Orioles faithful as he exited in favor of O'Day.
"He's a little bit like Jeff Nelson," Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said of O'Day, who struck him out for the second out of the inning. "I've faced him back to back, but I haven't had too many experiences against him. He's got a sweeping slider and a fastball. His objective and job is to get righties out, and he's gotten me the last few nights."
After O'Day took care of Rodriguez, lefty Matusz intentionally walked Cano, and a wild pitch put two Yankees runners in scoring position. But Matusz, who had a 1.35 ERA in 18 regular-season relief appearances, continued to come up big for the O's, getting Nick Swisher to fly out to remain perfect in stranding inherited runners this season.
"He's been incredible, he's been an absolute beast since he's been in the bullpen," O'Day said of Matusz. "And it's been fun kind of talking to him about that transformation. I haven't seen anything like that, for him to be that dominant that quick."
The Orioles will head to New York as the series shifts to Yankee Stadium and becomes a best-of-three set. They won all three series meetings in the Bronx in 2012, and while that has helped their confidence, the O's aren't banking on this being anything like the regular season.
"There's no Game 5 here in Baltimore," Jones said of this year's new 2-3 ALDS format. "We got to go out there and take care of business. It's not easy, but postseason isn't easy. This is what we have to overcome."