After the Raul Ibanez show last night, the New York Yankees are riding an emotional high going into Game 4. Hopefully Ibanez’s power display helps ignite the Yankees ice-cold bats.
But for now, it’s okay to enjoy the high. Game 3 was an instant classic that every Yankees fan with cognizant thought should be thankful to have witnessed—beating the Baltimore Orioles in extra innings with an Ibanez home run to tie the game in the 9th, followed by a walk-off bomb into the upper-deck in the 12th is not commonplace for any team. And considering that up until last night the Orioles were unbeatable in extra innings – sporting a 74-0 record when leading after seven innings and having completed 16 straight extra inning victories this season – it is a feat the Yankees should be proud of. Or, at least Raul Ibanez should be.
I had the luxury of being at the game, and all I can say is the atmosphere was pitiful. Through eight innings of uninspired play, it was like being at a tennis match. People watched the game but didn’t care, refused to stand on two-strike counts, and were more concerned with Tweeting their friends about their seat location than worrying about the clinic O’s pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was putting on, while also pushing the Yankees another game closer to elimination. It might as well have been the first game of a three game set in May.
Luckily, a gut-decision by Yanks skipper Joe Girardi changed all that, and so here we are, Game 4, Yankees up 2-1, with a potential ALDS victory in sight.
Now, on to Phil Hughes.
I’m not the biggest fan of Phil Hughes. For me, he inspires about as much confidence as holding a water pistol in a gun fight. But he pitched satisfactory during the regular season (1.5 WAR), and warrants the start tonight, if only because it means another day of rest for potential Game 5 starter CC Sabathia. The problem with Hughes is he is unbelievably susceptible to the long ball (trailing only glorified batting practice pitcher Ervin Santana who gave up 39 this season), with 35 home runs allowed in 191.1 IP. The Orioles love the long ball, and managed five dingers off Hughes in 100 PA’s this season. Those five home runs allowed represent the second-most home runs Hughes gave up to any team in 2012 (Toronto is #1 with 6 home runs in 151 PA’s).
After three phenomenal starts by Yankees starters, it’s time for the offense to take the reins. While it’s a great story that Raul Ibanez came off the bench to win the game, there’s no denying that most people’s apprehension about batting Alex Rodriguez in the three hole for the third game in a row was justified (0-3, 2 K’s). When you boil it down to its core, the game was decided by a 40-year-old DH replacing one of the Yankees supposed ‘big bats.’ The offensive woes don’t stop and start with A-Rod, though, Curtis Granderson has manage to escape a lot of criticism, but he might be having the worst postseason out of anyone (.091/.167/.91; 1 hit and 1 walk in 12 PA’s).
But the Yankees are resilient, if anything. This season they’ve managed to ebb and flow better than expected, adjusting to injuries and stepping up their game when the division race became a sprint. But the bottom line is the Yankees were given a gift last night. They now need to repay the favor and put the series away tonight.
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