Alex Rodriguez was moved down two places to the No. 5 spot in the New York Yankees’ lineup for today’s playoff game against the Baltimore Orioles, a day after being benched during the ninth inning in favor of pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez.
Rodriguez, Major League Baseball’s active career home-run leader, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts before being replaced by Ibanez, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth and the winning homer in the 12th inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 victory in Game 3 of their American League Division Series.
The win gave the Yankees a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five series. A victory tonight at Yankee Stadium would send New York into the AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers or Oakland Athletics.
“I expect big things from him tonight,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rodriguez at a news conference. “I still think he’s a great player.”
Rodriguez, 37, had batted third or fourth in 121 of his previous 122 starts this season. He hit third against the Orioles in the first three games, going 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts.
Derek Jeter is in the lineup as the designated hitter after sustaining a bone bruise yesterday when he fouled a ball off his left ankle. Jeter is hitting leadoff, followed by Ichiro Suzuki, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Rodriguez is fifth and playing third base, followed by Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson and Jayson Nix, who is at shortstop in place of Jeter.
Rodriguez said after last night’s game that he understood manager Joe Girardi’s decision to replace him. Rodriguez struck out against Orioles right-handed reliever Jim Johnson in the ninth inning of the first two games of the series, so Girardi opted for the left-handed hitting Ibanez, who homered on the second pitch.
“Maybe 10 years ago, I’d react a much different way, but I’m at a place in my career right now where team means everything,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me.”
He said the last time he had been pinch-hit for was “maybe high school.”
Ibanez, 40, became the first player in major-league history to hit two home runs in the ninth inning or later in a postseason game as the Yankees ended the Orioles’ run of 16 straight extra-inning wins. Baltimore is 16-3 in extra-inning games this season, with all three losses coming against the Yankees.
Ibanez was the 12th player in Yankees’ history to end a playoff game with a home run and the first since Mark Teixeira in 2009. The Yankees’ only game-ending homer to come later in a playoff game was Jim Leyritz’s 15th-inning blast in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS against Seattle.
“I wish it was me that hit two home runs, but if it wasn’t, it was the next-best guy, Raul,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is 3-for-30 with 13 strikeouts over the past two postseasons. A three-time AL Most Valuable Player whose 647 home runs rank fifth on the MLB career list, Rodriguez last hit a homer on Sept. 14 and has gone 20 games since his last postseason home run in 2009.