Raul Ibanez Steals Game Three

I’m not even sure what to write about this one. That finish was half joy, half relief; considering how lifeless the Yankees’ bats looked against Miguel Gonzalez.

First, one of the best hitters in history (whether you think PEDs played a big factor or not, it’s undeniable) gets pinch hit for. Joe Girardi was looking for some spark – Alex Rodriguez nor the entire lineup had done anything, really. Girardi sure got the spark he was looking for, courtesy of Raul Ibanez:

Then, three innings later:

If you can’t see the embedded videos, click here for the tying shot, and here for the walk off. Still haven’t gotten enough? Here‘s John Sterling’s call of the tying blow, and here‘s the walk off. Sterling calls courtesy of @WFANAudio.

A few historical notes regarding Ibanez’ performance:

  • The last guy to hit a 9th inning, game tying postseason home run for the Yanks? The man Ibanez hit for: A-Rod vs. Brian Fuentes, game 2 of the 2009 ALCS.
  • FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron was all over this one right as the game ended: Ibanez’ two-home run performance was good for .827 WPA (Win Probability Added). That’s good for fifth place all-time in postseason history. That’s right up there with David Freese and Kirk Gibson.
  • Like Cameron, I dug into┬áBaseball-Reference’s play index, too.┬áB-R made it pretty convenient, providing a link for all postseason walk-off hits. I sorted it to show only walk-off homers, and found that Ibanez is the first player to hit the game tying and walk-off home run in postseason history.

Good thing the Yankees stuck with him after a brutal Spring Training. If the Yankees win the World Series, tonight undoubtedly will be looked at as what kept them alive, barring anything else unforeseen.

Lost in the shuffle of this one was Hiroki Kuroda’s excellent performance: 8.1 innings, with the two runs being solo shots to Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado. All three Yankees starters have gotten the job done this series. Knowing that beforehand, we probably would have thought this would have been an easy sweep.

Now for the underlying piece of this big win: Alex Rodriguez. Is it a blow to his ego? I would have to imagine so, but at the same time, it was good to see him being the first guy to high five Raul in the dugout. I think Rodriguez has grown to realize that he’s not above the team, and he certainly knows he’s been absent at the plate in the first three of this series. If I’m Girardi, I’m sticking him right back in the heart of the lineup tomorrow just to show he still has his back. Plus, lefty Joe Saunders is starting for the O’s tomorrow, and A-Rod hit his two hardest balls of the series against southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. Bottom line: if he’s going to continue to put the scuffling Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in the lineup, he should continue to play Rodriguez.

Obviously, the team will enjoy this win tonight – but it’s time to finish the job tomorrow. Let’s see if Phil Hughes can keep the line moving for the starters, because it would be huge to have CC start game one of the ALCS rather than game five of the ALDS.

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