Instead, Tuesday night belonged to the underdogs, as an Orioles team missing several offensive regulars -- and without the services of its top three relievers -- backed a stellar outing from rookie Jake Arrieta to stun the best-in-baseball Yankees with a 6-2 victory in front of 46,432 at the new Yankee Stadium.
"He's going to get 20 wins, but we didn't want him to do it against us," Orioles designated hitter Nolan Reimold said of Sabathia, whom he took deep for a two-run homer in the third. "It's a good feeling that we were able to come out and get the 'W.'"
The win improved the Orioles to 21-13 under new manager Buck Showalter and secured the O's first series win in the Bronx since last Sept. 11-13, when they took two out of three. Coupled with a pair of weekend wins, the Orioles have pieced together a four-game win streak against the Rays and the Yankees, two American League East foes who are a combined 170-107 and fighting for the division crown.
The Orioles (53-86) aren't exactly crashing the party, but they are quickly becoming the unexpected guest in what figures to a final month of brutal divisional play.
"They're playing well," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said of an Orioles squad that clinched its season-high fifth consecutive road win with Tuesday's victory. "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."
It didn't take long for the O's to ensure that Tuesday's game was a good one.
Nineteen pitches into Sabathia's outing, the Orioles had three runs and the Yankees' ace -- 15-2 with a 2.40 ERA in his previous 18 career starts against Baltimore -- had yet to record an out. Brian Roberts opened with a single, and after Felix Pie walked, Nick Markakis' hit loaded the bases for Ty Wigginton.
Wigginton's blooper scored the first run of the game, and Adam Jones -- making just his third start in 13 games -- followed with a two-run single to left field.
"We made a statement in the first inning, and it stuck," Jones said of the O's 3-0 lead, which gave them an edge they would never relinquish.
"To deny [Sabathia] 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."
Meet Showalter's Orioles -- where crazy is quickly becoming conventional.
"We've got to figure it out now," Showalter said of beating teams like the Yankees and, in particular, pitchers like Sabathia, who last lost in the Bronx on July 2, 2009. "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."
With momentum on his side, Arrieta did just that. The rookie -- who has already exceed his career high in innings pitched -- looked downright rejuvenated on Tuesday night in a rematch with a Yankees squad he beat in his Major League debut in Baltimore on June 10. Arrieta gave back a first-inning run but cruised after that, holding New York to two runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings.
"[I] learned a lot about myself," said Arrieta, who picked up his first win since Aug. 10 at Cleveland. "Even with less effort, I can still be as effective -- if not more effective -- and was able to repeat [my] delivery pretty much every time. And that's what helped me have success."
Arrieta pitched around a leadoff single by Jeter in the sixth inning to get through the lethal middle of the Yankees' order, but the right-hander ran into trouble in the seventh. With 85 pitches already under his belt, Arrieta allowed a leadoff double to Lance Berkman that eluded the glove of Jones in center. After a walk to Jorge Posada and a shaky defensive play that saw a ball hit by Curtis Granderson carom off shortstop Robert Andino's glove in shallow center, Showalter promptly lifted Arrieta in favor of reliever Matt Albers.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi countered by calling on pinch-hitter Alex Rodriguez, and in spite of a pair of defensive miscues, Albers wiggled out of trouble and recorded five key outs, keeping the Yankees' powerful bats at bay.
"It's a huge situation that he got out of," said Arrieta, who had never heard a ballpark get as loud as Yankee Stadium did when Rodriguez stepped on deck. "That just shows we have the ability to play well in big-time situations like that."
And that the Orioles did it on the Yankees' home turf -- handing the Bronx Bombers their third straight loss -- spoke volumes.
"We are a young team, but it doesn't matter," Arrieta said. "We can play with the best of them, and I think everyone is starting to realize that."
Added Jones: "It's the same group of guys, but we are holding ourselves personally accountable for whatever goes on. I just think our focus is a little bit tighter, and we are playing a lot better team baseball."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.