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Drama in the Bronx. Raul Ibanez lined a tying home run while pinch hitting for slumping Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning, then hit a leadoff tater in the 12th, giving the Yankees a dramatic 3-2 win. Ibanez is the oldest player to hit a walkoff homer in playoff history and the only player in baseball to hit a dinger in the 9th and then in extra innings. In fact, Ibanez became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn’t start.
A-Rod had never been pinch-hit for in his playoff history. A stunning victory for the Yanks while a crushing blow to the Birds.
Baltimore had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and had been 76-0 when leading after seven, before last night.
Yankees fans had been calling this week for Joe Girardi to move Rodriguez out of the third spot in the batting order. He has 647 career home runs, but was just 1 for 12 with no RBIs and seven strikeouts in this series and 3-for-18 liftetime verus Baltimore closer Jim Johnson when Girardi pulled him. Girardi has always managed by the book but last night he made the boldest move ever by any Yankee skipper. Mark Texiera said afterwards Girardi rolled the dice and it worked.
So what does Girardi do with A-Rod tonight? Joe Saunders starts for Baltimore tonight. Saunders has not pitched in the Bronx since going 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts in the 2009 AL championship series with the Angels. Derek Jeter (9 for 18) and Rodriguez (7 for 16) have the highest career averages among Yankees regulars against him.
Phil Hughes went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts against Baltimore this year. The Yankee bullpen has pitched five scoreless innings with no walks in this series.