A Bronx Tale: Can Raul Ibanez's Feat Wake the Sleeping Alex Rodriguez?
There was bedlam in the Bronx late last night, as 40-year-old Raul Ibanez, who just became a Yankee last offseason, drilled game-tying and game-winning home runs.
There is more to this story than the magical home runs and the Yankees taking a commanding two-games-to-one series lead against Baltimore.
Ibanez came in the game as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning, with one out and the Yankees trailing by one run.
With right-handed pitcher Jim Johnson on the mound for the Baltimore Orioles, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to make a gutsy decision and play matchups.
Girardi benched the struggling Alex Rodriguez to set up what is being called a "legendary" moment in Yankees history.
Rodriguez didn't shy away from the moment, the team, or questions after the game. "Maybe 10 years ago, I'd react a much different way, but I'm at a place in my career right now where team means everything," Rodriguez said (via CBS New York). "I don't think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me."
A-Rod was the first man to greet Ibanez at the top of the steps after his game-tying blast and his reaction was nothing but positive and professional the entire time.
Orioles southpaw Joe Saunders will take the mound for Baltimore on Thursday night in Game 4, with the Yankees needing only one win to seal the deal.
Rodriguez has had great success against Saunders in the past, hitting 7-for-16 lifetime with two home runs.
However, Ibanez also has two lifetime home runs against Saunders and could creep his way into the lineup as well.
Still, the past is in the past and now is now. Rodriguez will likely stay in that three spot in the order and play third base, while Ibanez could get a shot in the outfield or DH while Girardi plays his hot hand. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is nursing a bone bruise from fouling a ball off of his foot, and could nab DH duties for this game and force Ibanez to the outfield or possibly pinch hitting duties again.
Now, fatefully, Rodriguez could become his own newest doubter. The day that Rodriguez starts doubting himself could have a major effect on his performance on the field. We could witness his historic collapse and possibly failure to attain the all-time home run crown from Barry Bonds.
As one of Rodriguez's biggest supporters, though, I can never count him out.
Currently, he's hitting only 1-for-12 this series, with seven strikeouts. He is well on his way to eclipsing his worst playoff performance to date, which was 2006 against Detroit where he hit 1-for-14 in a losing effort.
That 2006 series ended in four games as the Yankees were knocked out in a hurry. Lucky for Rodriguez this season, the Yankees playoff run is likely to continue deeper into October and is going to give him nothing but chances to redeem himself.
Who would you want to see batting with a game on the line right now?
However, the one thing that concerns me is how he is swinging and missing pitches that are right down the middle of the pipe.
Rodriguez has a good approach at the plate, but it seems his timing is off and he can't catch up to the fastball.
Yankees hitting coach and instructor Kevin Long has worked countless hours with Rodriguez over the years, and Rodriguez could use his help more than ever now.
After it is all said and done, this could be just the prelude to an even bigger story in New York.
Do not be surprised if A-Rod comes through for his team tonight or possibly in the next series for that matter.
Maybe Ibanez's historic feat will turn into another legend, waking up the sleeping bat of Alex Rodriguez.
Follow me on Twitter @nyyrobinson.
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