NEW YORK — Raul Ibañez lined a tying home run while pinch hitting for slumping Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning, then hit a leadoff homer in the 12th, giving the New York Yankees a stunning 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their AL Division Series.
Batting for baseball’s highest-paid player, the former Seattle Mariner homered to right-center with one out in the ninth inning off major league saves leader Jim Johnson to make it 2-all. He connected on the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the 12th inning.
Ibañez became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn’t start, according to STATS LLC.
Phil Hughes will try to clinch it for the Yankees today in Game 4 of the best-of-five series. Joe Saunders will start for the Orioles.
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Baltimore had won 16 consecutive extra-inning games, and were 76-0 when leading after seven, before New York stung them.
“It was a great experience. We do it as a team. We stay after it,” Ibañez said. “I’m blessed to come up and have the opportunity like that. We do it together. It’s about a team and about winning.”
Ibañez got that chance after Yankees manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pinch hit for Rodriguez – the first time A-Rod ever had someone hit in place of him in a postseason game, according to STATS LLC.
New York fans had been calling this week for Girardi to get Rodriguez out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. But Girardi was reluctant to move his fading slugger down in the lineup.
Until he took him all the way out.
“You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. I just had a gut feeling,” Girardi said.
Rodriguez has 647 career home runs but was just 1-for-12 with no RBI and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.
“(Alex) said, ‘Do what you got to do,’ ” Girardi said, recalling Rodriguez’s reaction to the move.
“You’re going to be asked a lot of questions if it doesn’t work,” the manager said.
The brash, young Orioles appeared poised to move within a game of their first trip to the AL Championship Series since 1997.
But Ibañez hit a 1-0 pitch into the seats in the ninth, setting off a raucous celebration in what had been a demoralized Yankee Stadium crowd. Rodriguez led the cheers, raising an arm in the dugout and high-fiving injured star Mariano Rivera.
“He said, ‘Great job.’ A-Rod is a great teammate and great team player,” Ibañez said. “He’s the first one on the top step congratulating you. It’s about winning. It’s about the Yankees and continuing.”
The Yankees limited Baltimore to one hit after Manny Machado homered in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty homered earlier for the Orioles before New York’s Derek Jeter tied the score with an RBI triple in the third.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda only gave up the two solo homers in 8 innings.