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Raul Ibanez has come up in big spots for the Yankees this season, but none were bigger than his two homers on Wednesday.
With the exception of a five-run ninth-inning outburst against Jim Johnson in Game 1, the Yankees' bats have looked dormant during the ALDS. And despite third baseman Alex Rodriguez's struggles during the series, manager Joe Girardi elected to keep his slugger as the third hitter in the lineup. However, with New York trailing by one in the ninth inning on Wednesday, Girardi decided to pull Rodriguez in favor of pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez is no stranger to late-inning heroics. On Oct. 3, the lefty-swinger came off the bench against the Red Sox and hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning, then smacked a game-winning single in the 12th inning. His performance on Wednesday was eerily similar.
With Johnson on the mound for the third time this series, Ibanez took a curveball for ball one before sitting on a dead-red, 94 mph fastball and driving it into the right-field bleachers, tying the game at 2-all. The man Ibanez pinch-hit for, A-Rod, looked like one of the happiest men alive as he fist-pumped and high-fived Mariano Rivera in the dugout.
Both sides were quiet through the 10th and 11th, aside from some (mis)adventures in Yankees defense. The Orioles, who were 76-0 when leading after seven innings during the regular season, kept lefty Brian Matusz on for a second inning of work. Girardi decided to leave Ibanez in the game and looked like a genius for the second time of the night when the lefty smashed the game-winning home run into the second deck.
It's a great moment for Ibanez, who looked all but washed up following the 2011 season. It's also a nice moment for general manager Brian Cashman, whose $1.5 million scrap-heap investment has paid major dividends in big spots for the Bombers this season.