The New York Yankees accomplished the impossible Wednesday night, defeating a Baltimore Orioles bullpen that had been quite literally unstoppable in late-inning and extra-inning situations to that point. The unlikely hero of the night, Raul Ibañez, needed just three pitches to knock two home runs into the right-field bleachers, giving the Yankees a 3-2 victory and putting the Bronx Bombers just one win from their first Championship Series berth since 2010.
The 40-year-old Ibañez has had an up-and-down year in the Bronx serving mainly as a platoon player, but Yankee fans were more than happy to give Raul his due Wednesday night following his Game 3 heroics. Tanya Bondurant of Pinstriped Bible admits that fans have been hard on Ibañez this year, but that he's continually managed to come through in the biggest situations:
Nearly everyone has been hard on Raul Ibanez this season, and you could certainly make a case for the fact that it was justified at times. As of late, though, he's come up as big as anyone at the plate when the Yankees need a big hit the most...
Tonight, down 2-1 with two outs separating the Yankees from a loss that would put them in an elimination tomorrow, Joe Girardi put all his chips on the table and pinch hit Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez. The gutsiest of moves paid off, Ibanez sent a solo shot into right field off of one of the most successful closers of 2012 in Jim Johnson, and the Yankees were given an extended chance at snatching away an important victory.
Once wasn't enough, though... I wasn't sure that he could do it twice in one game, but I should really know better than to doubt him at this point.
The Yankees will send right-hander Phil Hughes to the mound Thursday evening to try to clinch their spot in the ALCS. Veteran left-hander Joe Saunders will go for the Orioles in his second elimination game of this postseason.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and it will be aired on TBS.