In the October 10 Game 3 of the American League Division Series with the Baltimore Orioles, Raul Ibanez did exactly what the New York Yankees hired him to do. With his team down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ibanez smacked a game-tying home run to give the Yankees new life. Then, in the bottom of the 12th, he connected again for a game-winning walk-off shot. That blast put the Yankees ahead 2-1 in the best-of-five series. The Yankees can clinch the series with a win on October 11 or 12.
With Brett Gardner out for nearly all of 2012, Ibanez played much more left field than expected when he signed with the Yankees before the season. He signed on as primarily a designated hitter and late-inning left-handed power hitter for these exact situations. Ibanez was a high-average hitter earlier in his career. His average has suffered in the past few seasons, but his power has not. He hit 19 home runs in 384 at bats, and it is no coincidence that 14 of those came in Yankee Stadium, where he can use that short porch to his and his team's advantage. That is the main reason the Yankees signed him.
Manager Joe Girardi pulled the right switch at the right time. Ibanez pinch hit for the struggling Alex Rodriguez in the ninth. "A-Rod" is only 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts in the series and has not caught up to good Baltimore fastballs. He looks well over-matched. The entire team has 26 hits and a .263 average against an Orioles staff that has mostly pitched well in the ALDS.
The Yankees will send Phil Hughes to the mound in Game 4 (October 11, 7:37 p.m.) to try to clinch the series against Baltimore's Joe Saunders. Should the Yankees lose, they will still have their ace CC Sabathia for Game 5. Sabathia won Game 1, but it took a late Yankee rally to secure it.
The series looks well in hand for the Yankees on paper. They have a lot of left-handed power with a short right field porch. However, they must still play the games. Perhaps Ibanez or another Yankee slugger will help put this series away in four games.
Major League Baseball, Yankees Sortable Player Postseason Statistics, mlb.mlb.com as of October 11, 2012.
New York Yankees, Raul Ibanez Player Page, yankees.mlb.com.
Yahoo! Sports, Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Box Score, sports.yahoo.com/mlb, October 10, 2012.
Raymond was born in Connecticut into a family spilt between the Red Sox and Yankees. Although he grew up in Florida, Raymond became a Yankees fan. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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