In one of the more amazing postseason performances from a player who didn’t start the game, Raul Ibanez hit two home runs, the first a pinch-hit job to tie the ball game in the ninth inning and then a walk-off blast leading off the bottom of the twelfth inning giving the New York Yankees a 3-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the American League Division Series over the Baltimore Orioles.
You have to hand it to Joe Girardi to pull Alex Rodriguez in favor of Ibanez after A-Rod struck out two more times, giving him seven in the series. Rodriguez was 3-for-19 against Baltimore closer Jim Johnson and he’s looking lost at the plate so this was a very good tactical move by Girardi, but certainly goes against conventional wisdom with a Hall of Fame caliber player due up. In the post game show, Girardi said he had a “gut feeling” that he had to go with.
Much like the first two games of the series, Game 3 was a pitcher’s duel, and for the second time in the series the Yankees reached Johnson for a home run. The Yankees did not hit a homer against Johnson during the regular season but now have two against him in the three games of this postseason series.
Hiroki Kuroda was fantastic through 8 1/3 innings allowing two runs, both solo shots, and only three other hits, one walk and struck out three. The problem? Miguel Gonzalez was better, tossing even innings of one-run ball. He allowed just five hits, walked none and struck out eight. He had Yankees batters off balance and missing badly all night.
The hitting issues lay far beyond Rodriguez who is 1-for-12 in the series. There are only three Yankee regulars who are hitting over .200 for the series. Worse, there are two other players besides Rodriguez hitting below .200; Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.
The bullpen has to be commended as well. David Robertson earned the win with two scoreless innings, after Boone Logan recorded an out and Rafael Soriano threw one and a third innings. Their efforts allowed for Ibanez to get the second chance to hit one of the more remarkable home runs in Yankee history.
Derek Jeter, who tripled in the Yankees first run to tie the score at one in the third inning, left the game with what Girardi called a bone bruise from a foul ball The Captain took off his foot in his second at-bat. It is not the same injury that affected Jeter toward the end of the regular season. Girardi said he would have to wait until later today to determine if Jeter plays in the field or at all. My money is that Jeter is in the game in some way and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back at shortstop.
The Yankees will have Phil Hughes on the mound in Thursday’s Game 4, while the Orioles will use lefty Joe Saunders, who won the wildcard play-in game last Friday. Rodriguez will likely be back in there with a lefty on the mound, but his batting position is very much up in the air. That said, it isn’t like anyone else is tearing the cover off the ball other than Ibanez. By the way, Ibanez is 8-for-23 with a double and two homers off Saunders in his career. You think Girardi will have a hard time penciling him into the lineup?