Yankees vs. Orioles: Raul Ibanez Crushes 2 HR to Spark 3-2 Game 3 Victory
You simply can not script October baseball.
Who would have ever thought that the guy who pinch-hits for Alex Rodriguez would end up being a hero of the game.
The game started out as a pitchers' duel between Hiroki Kuroda and Miguel Gonzalez, and they both did not disappoint for either team, throwing pure gems on the mound.
Gonzalez went seven innings, allowed one run on five hits, walked none, struck out eight batters and left the game with the lead.
The only mistake Gonzalez made was an RBI triple to Derek Jeter that got over Adam Jones' head in the bottom of the third inning, which at the time tied the game at 1-1.
On the other side, Hiroki Kuroda went 8.1 innings, allowed two runs on five hits, walked one and struck out three.
He allowed two mistakes; one was a solo home run to Ryan Flaherty in the top of the third inning that made the game 1-0 and a solo home run by Manny Machado in the top of the fifth inning that made it 2-0.
Other than the solo home runs, Kuroda was absolutely brilliant for the Yankees, but he was again a victim of no run support—just like Andy Pettitte was in Game 2.
The ninth inning is when the game got real interesting.
Heading into the game, A-Rod was 1-for-9 with five strikeouts, and in Game 3, A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two more strikeouts, lowering his postseason average to .083.
So Joe Girardi decided to make one of the gutsiest calls all year long by pinch-hitting A-Rod for Raul Ibanez with one out in the ninth inning against Orioles closer Jim Johnson.
Who will win Game 4 of the ALDS?
Ibanez got a pitch he liked, and cranked one over the right-field wall for a game-tying, solo home run that made it 2-2.
And just like that, Yankee Stadium was alive and roaring, just like in the postseasons of past when Tino Martinez or Scott Brosius would hit a crucial home run.
Rafael Soriano and David Robertson kept the game locked down at 2-2 by pitching solid extra innings to keep the Yankees going against the Orioles.
And then, in the bottom of the 12th inning, Ibanez steps up to the plate again against Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, and again, just like in the ninth inning, Ibanez crushes a pitch into the second deck of Yankee Stadium. The Yankees win 3-2 on the walk-off home run.
All year long, we've talked about how great of a move Ibanez was to get for the bargain price of $1.1 million back in the winter, yet some people questioned Brian Cashman signing him over Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon to be the DH.
Yet, time and time again, Ibanez comes through in the clutch not once, but twice for the Yankees and adds to the Yankees' mystique of players who come up big in October.
Before the game, I had said the Yankees needed to take Game 3 to give themselves the advantage in the series. They nearly blew it, but they found a way to come through.
Now, they can head into Game 4 with the momentum, and the Orioles come into Game 4 not knowing what just hit them.
Phil Hughes can take the ball in Game 4 on Thursday night knowing he doesn't have to keep the Yankees from elimination, but instead, can pitch them to the ALCS.
On the other side, Buck Showalter will give the ball to Joe Saunders, who will try to save the Orioles' season and stave off elimination.
Saunders was the winner of the one-game, wild-card playoff game against the Texas Rangers last week. The last time Saunders pitched in an elimination game was, in fact, against the Yankees back in Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS.
Saunders took the loss against Pettitte in a game that sent the Yankees to the World Series. On Thursday night, the Yankees will be looking to do it again against the lefty.
For Yankee fans all over, this is a great win and such an adrenaline boost. Good luck to those trying to get sleep and having to get up for work on Thursday morning. You may need some extra-strong coffee.
Two down, nine to go until No. 28.
Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.
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