Another victory over the Boston Red Sox crowns the New York Yankees (94-67) AL East champions. Another victory gives them homefield advantage through the ALCS.
Raul Ibanez erased a 3-1, ninth-inning deficit at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night when he crushed a pinch-hit, two-run home run to right off Andrew Bailey, and knocked in Francisco Cervelli in the 12th by sharply grounding Andrew Miller's 94 mph fastball through the left side.
The Yankees enter Wednesday, as they did Tuesday, very much in control of their destiny, all because Ibanez was able to keep them alive with one swing and close the deal with another.
"I knew that I hit it on the barrel, and I thought it had a chance," Ibanez, referring to his game-tying blast in the ninth, said inside an exhausted yet relieved clubhouse following the Yankees' 4-3 walk-off win. "You hit it and you see the ball kind of take off, and it's all happening kind of in slow motion.
"And I think somewhere before you touch first base is when you realize, you know, tied game," he added. "But I don't think you're in the box -- you know you're in that situation but it's kind of irrelevant, 'cause the only thing that matters is the next pitch."
The Baltimore Orioles (93-68), behind New York by a game in the division, had already shut out the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 at Tropicana Field by the time Tuesday's Yankees-Red Sox game went to extra innings, so the stakes were that much higher. And the threat of coming into Wednesday tied with Baltimore atop the AL East was no greater than when closer Rafael Soriano, trying to keep the Yankees within 2-1 in the ninth, surrendered a solo homer to James Loney.
If at that point there were a bunch of Yankees obsessively scoreboard-watching, who could blame them? Nobody wants anything to do with the inaugural Wild Card Showdown, which is why these divisional races finally have substance.
But with a game still in progress, Ibanez kept thoughts of out-of-town scores to a minimum.
"I don't think you can think about that when you're playing, when you're performing," said Ibanez, whose walk-off hit marked his first as a Yankee and 11th of his career. "I think when you're performing you gotta simplify it and try to get a good pitch to hit.
"So all of that other stuff between the lines, even though you're aware of it, it plays no role in what you're doing 'cause you have to focus. If you have some of your focus on that, you don't have all of your focus on what you're doing."
- Sports & Recreation
- Raul Ibanez