MLB Playoffs: Raul Ibanez's two homers lift the New York Yankees to Magical Win

By Steve Palumbo
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Yankees were two outs from falling behind the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 in their best-of-five American League Divisional Series. That is until manger Joe Girardi made a decision that very well may have changed the outcome of the series and the future of Alex Rodriquez in pinstripes.

Girardi decided not to drop Rodriguez down in the batting order, leaving him in the No. 3 spot. Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, dropping to 1-for-12 (.083) and no RBIs and seven strikeouts in the series.

But, when the time was right, the Yankees manager wasn’t afraid to pinch hit for the struggling slugger. With the game and the series on the line, Girardi went to his bench. Raul Ibanez stepped in for A-rod and belted a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson. After taking a ball, he drove the second pitch into the right-field stands, knotting the score at 2-2 and forcing extra innings. It proved to be the right call and a decision that many will look back on as one of those jaw-dropping magical October moments in the Bronx.

The clutch homer to extend the game was just the first rabbit Ibanez had in his hat. Three innings later, he did it again. He launched the first pitch he saw from Orioles lefty Brian Matusz into the stands for a 3-2 twelve inning victory and 2-1 series lead.

The Orioles had won 16 consecutive extra-inning games during the 2012 season. That’s history. The Orioles went 78-0 in the regular season when leading after the 7th inning. Yep, history as well. Ibanez becomes the latest hero in a long, long line of postseason heroes for the Yankees.

This game was special and it could not have happened to a more deserving player. All night long it felt as though the Orioles were destined to win the game and ultimately the series. Not anymore. The ghosts of the old Yankees stadium woke up and roared to life on a night when the home team needed them most.

What happens to A-Rod now? My gut tells me we won’t be seeing him in the No. 3 spot any time soon.
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