Ibanez Slams Two Late-Inning Homers To Save Yanks

Published on: 11th October, 2012

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Ibanez Slams Two Late-Inning Homers To Save Yanks  | read this item

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Bronx, N.Y. —  The Baltimore Orioles came into tonight’s Game 3 of the Division Playoff Series with the Yankees with an astounding 75-0 record this season in games they were leading in the eighth inning.

Kiss that record goodbye.

And, if you’re a Yankees fan, give a big kiss to Raul Ibanez. In a shocking end to an exciting, well-played, superbly-pitched baseball playoff game, it was the 40-year old Ibanez who was asked by Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth inning for none other than Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees losing, 2-1. Ibanez promptly slammed a solo home run off of the Orioles closer, Jim Johnson to tie up the game.

But, Ibanez wasn’t finished. In the bottom of the 12th inning, Ibanez got up against the hard-throwing lefty, Brian Matusz and proceeded to win the game with a walk-off home run into the upper deck in right field, leading the Yankees to a 3-2 win in the pivotal third game of this series.

The new Yankee Stadium had not seen this type of storybook ending in an important game since it opened three years ago and many of the delirious fans stuck around, refusing to leave the ballpark long after the game ended.

The Yankees can close it out tomorrow night with Phil Hughes on the mound.

It didn’t look like the ending was going to leave Yankees fans smiling, right up until Ibanez’ fateful ninth inning slam.

Buck Showalter brought his young Orioles up to New York and didn’t blink at the site of Yankee Stadium or the bright lights of the big city, shutting down the Bronx Bombers, 2-1, through the first eight innings.

Both teams received masterful starting pitching but the Orioles 29-year old rookie, Miguel Gonzalez befuddling the Yankees with near-perfect control and a low-90s fastball, was just a little bit better than the Yankees’ Huroki Kuroda.

In a five-game playoff series, the third game is always pivotal, especially if the teams split the first two games. The winner of a game three can close out the series the very next night.

Advantage New York.

The Yankee Stadium crowd was as loud as they’ve been all season as the teams went into the fourth inning tied at 1-1. Derek Jeter did what he’s been doing for 17-years in the major leagues when he tripled with two out in the bottom half of the third, driving in Russell Martin, who had doubled earlier.

The Orioles scored their run on a home run by the little-known second baseman, Ryan Flaherty, who pulled a fastball from Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda into the right field stands. In the meantime, Gonzalez was in control of the Yankee lineup, who could only muster three base runners in the first four innings against the righthander.

The Orioles took the lead in the top of the fifth when Manny Machado, the neophyte 20-year old playing third base in the hallowed Yankee Stadium, showed he wasn’t intimidated by the surroundings when he took Kuroda deep, blasting a home run into the left field stands.

Jeter led off the bottom of the sixth with a single up the middle but was immediately forced at second on a grounder by Ichiro Suzuki that the Yankee leftfielder beat out at first to avoid the double play. Rodriguez, who had grounded out and struck out his previous two at-bats tonight eliciting the boo birds at his home ballpark, was up next. Gonzalez quickly got two strikes on the 37-year old A-Rod, who then struck out on a weak, half-swing. Joe Girardi’s decision, some would say stubbornness, to keep him in the third slot in the lineup continues under greater scrutiny. Gonzalez polished off Robbie Cano with his sixth strikeout of the game and the inning was over.

Meanwhile, Kuroda was masterful, himself. He set down 10 Orioles in a row as he concluded the top of the eighth, having given up only five hits and six total base runners in his outing. Yet, it wasn’t good enough to overcome the Oriole starter and their superb bullpen.

With the Yankees on the brink of going down two games to one in the series, Ibanez, pinch-hitting for the faltering Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth, hit the biggest home run of the season for the Yankees. The crowd went nuts, as the 40-year old Ibanez got the home team back in the game.

Rodriguez was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being replaced by Ibanez. Rodriguez had struggled in the first two games of the ALDS, going 1 for 9 with five strikeouts. He did hit a couple of balls hard in Game 2, including a first-inning line drive that could have been an RBI single but instead was caught by second baseman Robert Andino. “We had playoff baseball pretty much the whole month of September and we were pretty good with the lineup we sent out there,” Girardi said before the game. “He was in that spot. He got on base. And I started thinking, ‘You know what, if that first ball that he squares up goes through, we probably aren’t talking about this.’ The guy makes a really good play and takes away a couple of RBIs and it changes the inning and it changes the tone.” Rodriguez has not hit a home run in his last 80 at-bats. He finished the season hitting .272 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs.

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