The New York Yankees' ace was bidding to win his 20th game for the first time in his career. He was trying to extend his unbeaten streak at Yankee Stadium to 22 games, which would have been the longest such streak in Yankees history.
The new Orioles had no interest in watching him do either, and they knocked around Sabathia, who had lost to them just one other time in 19 career starts. The better starting pitcher here Tuesday night was rookie Jake Arrieta, who allowed just two runs in 6 1/3 innings as the Orioles bounced the Yankees, 6-2, to win their fourth straight game.
"There's a reason why I don't look at that," manager Buck Showalter said of Sabathia's wildly successful history against the Orioles, which included a 13-1 record and a 2.59 ERA in 18 previous starts. "I know you all make me aware of it, but I don't want them to think that I'm living in that past. We got to figure it out now. It's about now and the future. What's happened in the past has happened. Don't dwell on it. Let's figure out a way to make it not happen."
They did it with the first five hitters Sabathia faced reaching base en route to a three-run first inning. Nolan Reimold slammed a pitch from Sabathia into the second deck in left field for a two-run, third-inning homer, and Nick Markakis drove in an insurance run with a single in the seventh to chase Sabathia from the game.
Sabathia (19-6) allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings. It was his first loss at Yankee Stadium since July 2, 2009. It also broke a six-start winning streak.
"I was thinking about that, how he hasn't lost all year," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who returned to the lineup and hit a key two-run single with the bases loaded in the first inning. "To deny him his 20th win at his home ballpark, where he hasn't lost in 21 starts and that's dating back to last year, that's crazy. We made a statement in the first inning, and it stuck."
The Orioles (53-86) improved to 21-13 under Showalter. They have won five straight games on the road. They didn't pick up their fifth road win this season until May 8, and that was their 18th game away from Camden Yards. Just four days ago, the Orioles were a combined 5-20 against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees. They've beaten those teams on four consecutive days and will go for the series sweep against the Yankees (86-53) this afternoon.
"They're playing well," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "I don't know because I never switched managers in the middle of a season, but I'm pretty sure there are a lot of guys over there trying to make an impression."
Arrieta (5-6) did Tuesday night, looking shaky early in protecting the Orioles' lead but settling down to pitch into the seventh inning. In what could be his second-to-last start of the season as he has surpassed his professional career high in innings and is expected to be shut down soon, the young right-hander allowed two earned runs on eight hits and a walk. It was his second victory over the Yankees this season, and it was a fine follow-up to fellow rookie Brian Matusz's performance in Monday's series opener.
"The biggest thing today was my delivery. I learned a lot about myself," said Arrieta, who won for the first time since Aug. 10. "Even with less effort, I can still be as effective, if not more effective, and I was able to repeat the delivery pretty much every time. And that's what helped me have success today."
Said Showalter: "As we go forward with these young players, they are going to have to figure out how to win not only at our place against these guys, but at this place. You see them enough. There will be no secrets by what they feature and what they try to do. That's what I take out of it for him to show that he can have some success."
Showalter opted to take his rookie righty out of the game in favor of Matt Albers with runners on the corners and one out and with slugger Alex Rodriguez having just been announced as the pinch hitter. Clearly disappointed, Arrieta tossed down the rosin bag and slapped his thigh as Showalter emerged from the dugout.
"I was telling a friend after I came out that I never heard a crowd get as loud as it did when they pinch-hit A-Rod there in the seventh," Arrieta said. "I wanted to face him, but Matty did a great job coming in, getting those two big outs, so kudos to him for getting out of that inning right there."
Rodriguez lined a 2-0 pitch at rookie third baseman Josh Bell, who couldn't hold on. But the ball deflected to shortstop Robert Andino, who threw to Brian Roberts at second base to get the forceout. Lance Berkman, who thought Bell was going to catch the ball, froze at third.
Albers retired Brett Gardner to end the inning. With Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson and Michael Gonzalez all unavailable, Albers pitched a perfect eighth, retiring Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Mark Hendrickson worked a perfect ninth as the Orioles spoiled Sabathia's big night.
"He's going to get 20 [wins], but we didn't want him to do it against us. It's a good feeling that we were able to come out and get the ‘W,' " Reimold said. "It's a different atmosphere [around here], for sure, because winning cures a lot, pretty much everything. Guys are having a lot of fun. Going out there and winning and playing good ball is fun."