Sabathia dominated the Orioles in the fifth and final game of the division series, setting the Yankees up for a best-of-seven duel with the Detroit Tigers for the American League championship.
The New York-Detroit series will open Saturday in Yankee Stadium.
Pre-game attention in New York Friday focused on the fact that star third baseman Alex Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup, having been removed by Manager Joe Girardi after going 2-for-16 in the opening four games of the series.
As the game went on, however, it was Sabathia who stepped into the spotlight with his nine strikeouts and 121 pitches. His first complete game in 17 career playoff starts came on the heels of an 8 2/3-inning performance in the opening contest of this series, one the Yankees won 7-2.
Rodriguez was replaced at third base by Eric Chavez while Raul Ibanez was used as the designated hitter. Both Chavez and Ibanez had pinch-hit for Rodriguez during the series with Ibanez coming through in Game 3 to smash a game-tying home run in the ninth inning of what eventually became a New York victory.
Ibanez struck again Friday, driving in Mark Teixeira with the game's first run in the fifth inning after Teixeira had singled to open the frame and stolen second.
Baltimore's lone run came on an RBI single by Lew Ford in the eighth.
The Orioles had three of their fourth hits in the eighth, their only other one coming from leadoff hitter Nate McLouth in the fourth after Sabathia had retired the first nine men he faced.
Baltimore starter Jason Hammel took the loss after giving up two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles were making their first post-season appearance in 15 years.
The Tigers and Yankees will be meeting in the playoffs for the second time in as many years. Detroit ousted New York in the division round last season before losing to Texas in the ALCS.
Detroit will send Doug Fister to the mound Saturday. Fister went 10-10 during the regular season, but in his last six starts posted an earned run average of 2.77.
Andy Pettitte will start for the Yankees, having taken the loss in Game 2 of the division series against the Orioles despite giving up only three runs through seven innings.