Not many would have thought a few weeks ago that Raul Ibanez would be the one to save the New York Yankees' season.
But the left fielder, who hit .240 on the season, has been a monster in the clutch over the past few weeks, and his late game-tying and game-winning solo home runs in Game 3 Wednesday night gives the Yankees two chances to advance to the ALCS with a win. Steven Goldman was live-blogging the game at Pinstriped Bible, and summed it up in a sentence:
They'll put his plaque in Monument Park tonight.
Tonya Bondurant couldn't have enough good things to say about Ibanez in her post-game recap:
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.
Ibanez hit a pinch-hit home run Sept. 22 to pull ahead against the Oakland A's, then a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th to tie the game up after the Yankees had trailed by four. He had more pinch-hit magic as he hit a two-run bomb, again as a pinch-hitter, to tie up the Oct. 3 game against the Boston Red Sox with the Yanks needing every win to take the AL East. And last night, his pinch-hit magic was there once again.
Lost in Ibanez' feel-good win was a great performance by Hiroki Kuroda, and bad performances by nearly everybody else in the Yankees lineup:
Ibanez will be the hero, and Alex Rodriguez will probably unfairly be the goat (even though nearly the whole lineup is to blame), but the performance that Hiroki Kuroda turned in was a masterpiece of its own. His 8.1 innings were only tarnished by solo shots to Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado. Kuroda allowed only five hits, and really managed to shut down the opposing offense after the Machado home run put the Orioles on top.
The Yankees take the field behind Phil Hughes tonight at 7:37 p.m. ET. They'll need more than just a pair of magical solo shots if they want to win behind a pitcher who has had his struggles of late.