Raul Ibanez pinch-hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and won it with another homer in the 12th as the New York Yankees took a 2-1 lead in their Major League Baseball playoff series against the Baltimore Orioles.
The 3-2 home victory last night leaves the Yankees needing one win to advance to the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers or the Oakland Athletics. The A’s scored three runs in the ninth inning to win 4-3 last night in Oakland and force a decisive fifth game in that division series.
Ibanez, 40, hit his game-tying homer as a replacement for Alex Rodriguez, the MLB active leader in home runs who is fifth on the career list with 647. Rodriguez, 37, who has a MLB-high salary of $29 million this year, is 1-for-12 this postseason and has not hit a homer since Sept. 14.
“Raul had some kind of day for us today, and you have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of his move to pinch-hit for Rodriguez. “But I just had a gut feeling.”
In the National League, the San Francisco Giants forced a decisive fifth game today in Cincinnati by winning 8-3 yesterday against the Reds. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Washington Nationals 8-0 to take a 2-1 lead in that series, with Game 4 today in Washington.
New York can eliminate Baltimore with a win today at Yankee Stadium. If the Orioles win, a decider would be played tomorrow in New York.
The Yankees are now 11-4 favorites to win the World Series, according to the Las Vegas Hotel’s Super Book, with the Cardinals at 9-2, followed by the Reds and Tigers at 5-1. The Giants and Athletics have 7-1 odds, while the Nationals are 9-1 and the Orioles are listed at 22-1.
Orioles starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez held the Yankees to one run on five hits in seven innings. Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth inning for the Orioles and the Yankees trailed 2-1 going into the ninth.
With one out, Ibanez hit his homer off Jim Johnson, the loser of Game 1 in this series. Johnson had a MLB-leading 51 saves this season. Ibanez’s game-winning home run came off Brian Matusz.
“We stayed after it,” said Ibanez, who became the first player in MLB postseason history to hit two homers in a game he did not start. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to come up like that.”
Ibanez’s performance was similar to one he had on Oct. 2, on the next-to-last day of the regular season, as the Yankees were trying to hold off the Orioles in the AL East.
He had a pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth inning of that game against the Boston Red Sox, then won the game with a run-scoring single in the 12th. The win prevented the Orioles from tying the Yankees atop the division.
The loss ended a streak of 16 straight extra-inning wins for the Orioles. Rookies Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado hit solo home runs for Baltimore’s runs. The Yankees scored their first run on a triple by Derek Jeter, who left the game in the ninth inning with a bone bruise to his left foot.
“It’s very hard to do what these young men do for a living,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said in a news conference. “It doesn’t always work out perfectly. It’s happened at times during the year, and it’s part of the process.”
In Oakland, Seth Smith had a two-run double in the ninth inning to tie the game and Coco Crisp won it with a run-scoring single. All the runs came off Detroit reliever Jose Valverde.
The A’s have won a MLB-high 15 games in their last at-bat at home this year.
“It’s a contagious feeling in our dugout,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said in a news conference. “There’s a confidence. We’ve done it so many times that there’s always going to be that confidence until we make the last out.”
The A’s have won two straight at home after losing the first two games of the series in Detroit. Game 5 is tonight in Oakland.
“You get tested all the time in this game, and this is a good test,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in a news conference. “We played our hearts out and tonight we just didn’t close it out.”
In Cincinnati, the Giants got home runs from Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval as they evened their NL Division Series at two games apiece. San Francisco lost the first two games at home before taking two straight in Cincinnati, the site of Game 5.
The Giants are trying to become the first NL team to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a division series. Four American League teams have staged such a comeback.
Matt Cain, who had a perfect game this season, will start for San Francisco against Cincinnati’s Mat Latos.
“It’s probably hard for them to believe that we were up 2-0,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said in a news conference. “So they reversed on us what we did to them out there. It won’t matter, if we win tomorrow, how many games you were up.”
Pete Kozma hit a three-run homer as the Cardinals won the first postseason game in Washington since 1933. St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 innings for his first win since Game 7 of last year’s World Series.
“I’m just real excited to have this opportunity,” said Carpenter, who missed most of the season after having surgery to correct nerve damage in his shoulder. “I’m in my fourth spring- training start, but I’m doing it under the lights in the postseason.”
Carpenter, 37, who went 0-2 this season while being limited to 17 innings, became the first starting pitcher in major league history to win a playoff game following a season in which his team was winless when he pitched. The Cardinals lost all three of his 2012 starts.
Carpenter, a three-time All-Star, was the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner as the league’s best pitcher. He got the win as the Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in the final game of the 2011 World Series.
“It’s unreal, he’s a monster, he’s just a warrior out there,” Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in a radio interview. “He’s not all the way back, and that’s impressive. He’s not throwing as hard. He just got it done tonight.”
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