Raul Ibanez delivered a magnificent performance in Wednesday’s extra-inning victory over the Orioles, even though he didn’t enter the game until the ninth inning. Not only did he single-handedly save the ballgame, he may have saved the Yankees’ entire season.
The Yankees’ offense had been held in check for the majority of the evening by Miguel Gonzalez and Darren O’Day, and they trailed 2-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Jim Johnson, whose 51 saves in the regular season topped all of baseball, was called upon to protect that advantage.
After Ichiro Suzuki flied out to start the inning, Yankees’ skipper Joe Girardi elected to do something that had never been done before in the postseason. He pinch-hit for struggling superstar Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod had been 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts on the night, and an atrocious 1-for-12 with seven K’s in the series.
Knowing that Johnson is a low-ball pitcher, and that Yankee Stadium has a short porch in right field, Girardi cited a “gut feeling” for his decision to call upon Ibanez. The veteran outfielder rewarded his manager’s faith in him, smashing a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right to tie the game, electrifying the crowd and the Yankee dugout in the process.
After trading zeroes in the 10th and 11th innings, Ibanez again strode to the plate to lead off the 12th inning. Though he hit just .197/.246/.246 against left-handed pitching during the regular season, Ibanez lined the first pitch he saw from Brian Matusz into the stands in right, delivering an improbable come-from-behind victory.
The Yankees now own a 2-1 lead in the series, with Phil Hughes set to take on Joe Saunders in a potential series clinching game on Thursday.
A’s Refuse To Go Quietly
After the Oakland Athletics lost the first two games of the ALDS in Detroit, many predicted that the Tigers would roll to an easy victory in the series. The Athletics have other plans.
After dominating the Tigers in Game 3 on Tuesday, they executed one of their most improbable comeback victories of the year to keep their dream season alive.
Max Scherzer kept the A’s offense down, surrendering just one unearned run over his 5 1/3 innings of work, while punching out eight. The A’s headed into the home half of the ninth inning trailing 3-1, getting ready to face Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde.
Josh Reddick got things started, lining a single to right field on a 1-2 pitch. Josh Donaldson then smoked the first pitch he saw for a double off the wall in center, putting the tying runs in scoring position. Seth Smith followed with a two-run double, trying the game. Valverde battled back, inducing a weak foul pop out from George Kottaras then striking out Cliff Pennington. Coco Crisp then played the role of hero, slashing a game-winning RBI single to right, giving the A’s the astounding 4-3 victory.
It was their 15th walkoff victory of the 2012 season and forces a critical Game 5 on Thursday. That contest will be a rematch of Game 1, with Justin Verlander squaring off against Jarrod Parker.
Lincecum Stars In Relief Role
Two-time NL Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum experienced his fair share of difficulties this season. He entered the season with a career 69-41 record, 2.98 ERA, 1.188 WHIP and outstanding 1127/379 K/BB ratio through his first 156 games. He had been a World Series hero and widely considered to be one of the truly elite arms in the game.
Yet somehow, the wheels seemed to fall off the train in 2012. Lincecum posted an unimpressive 10-15 record, with his loss total leading the National League. He turned in a horrifying 5.18 ERA and 1.468 WHIP, while shattering his career-high by allowing 23 home runs. He also led the NL in wild pitches with 17 and earned runs allowed with 107.
Things got so bad for him that he was the odd man out when Bruce Bochy set his postseason rotation, opting instead to use Barry Zito in a must-win situation against the Reds in Game 4. Zito lasted just 2 2/3 innings in the game, allowing a pair of runs and eight base-runners. With their entire season hanging in the balance, and the game tied at 2-2 in the fourth inning, Lincecum was summoned from the bullpen. He inherited two base-runners with two down in the inning, and fanned Ryan Ludwick to escape trouble.
He remained on the hill through the eighth inning, allowing just one run on a pair of hits while walking none and racking up six strikeouts. Lincecum commanded all of his pitches well, throwing 42 of his 55 pitches for strikes. Most importantly, it gives the Giants new life in a series where they were left for dead just a few days earlier.
The Giants started the postseason by dropping each of the first two games at home against the Reds. In order to survive and advance to the next round, they would have to sweep the Reds in Cincinnati, where they were 50-31 during the regular season. Now, thanks to Lincecum’s contributions, they face a do-or-die Game 5 on Thursday behind staff ace Matt Cain.
Carpenter Stellar Against Nationals
Chris Carpenter managed to steal the show on Wednesday, spoiling the Nationals first ever postseason game in Washington. The 37-year-old right-hander pitched only 17 innings in the regular season after undergoing surgery in July to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
Just returning to the mound this season was an incredible accomplishment for Carpenter, let alone twirling a gem during a must-win game in the postseason. With their series against the Nationals tied at 1-1, Carpenter tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings to lead his team to victory. He also chipped in with the bat, going 2-for-3 on the afternoon with a double that nearly left the yard.
With the victory, Carpenter improves to 10-2 over 16 career postseason starts. His winning percentage ranks second in MLB history among hurlers who have made at least 10 postseason starts. If the Cardinals can win one of the next two games in Washington, Carpenter will lead an extremely talented rotation back to the NLCS in their quest to repeat as World Champions.
National League Quick Hits: Jaime Garcia was removed from the NLDS roster on Tuesday and is likely to require surgery on his shoulder… Johnny Cueto was removed from the Reds’ NLDS roster due to a strained oblique… Mike Leake replaced him and struggled in Wednesday’s loss to the Giants… Pablo Sandoval had three hits, including a two-run bomb in Wednesday’s win… Pete Kozma blasted a three-run homer in Wednesday’s victory over the Nationals… Dodgers’ outfield prospect Yasel Puig will miss the Arizona Fall League due to a staph infection of his right elbow, though it isn’t expected to be a long-term issue… According to sources, the Mets are prepared to offer David Wright a contract extension near $100 million… Shelby Miller replaced Jaime Garcia on the Cardinals postseason roster and will pitch out of the bullpen… Jason Giambi could be considered a candidate to fill the Rockies’ managerial vacancy.
American League Quick Hits: Derek Jeter smashed an RBI triple in Wednesday’s victory over the Orioles, but left the game in the eighth inning after fouling a ball off his left foot. He is expected to return to the lineup for Game 4 on Thursday… Hiroki Kuroda twirled a gem in his Yankees’ postseason debut, allowing two runs on five hits over 8 1/3 innings… Miguel Gonzalez pitched brilliantly on Wednesday, tossing seven innings of one-run ball with eight K’s in a no-decision… At 20-years-old, Manny Machado became the second youngest player in postseason history to hit a home run… If the Orioles are able to force a Game 5 in the ALDS, Jason Hammel would get the start… The Red Sox will interview Dodgers’ third base coach Tim Wallach for their managerial vacancy… The Orioles’ announced that Brian Matusz will be used as a starter for the 2013 season… C.J. Wilson will have surgery on his left elbow on October 23… The Rangers will let Josh Hamilton test the free-agent market before making him an offer this offseason… The Red Sox are expected to begin serious contract discussions with David Ortiz next week.