Results tagged ‘ Eric Chavez ’

Safeco a friendly place for Mo and Tex

The 10-game, 11-day trip to the West Coast that began Thursday night at Seattle starts a soft spot on the Yankees’ schedule. Of the Yankees’ next 11 series leading into the All-Star break, six will be against teams currently under .500, including three of the next four with the Mariners, Angels and Dodgers – nine of 12 games. The other three are in Oakland.

This will be the Yanks’ only visit to Safeco Field this year. They have won eight of their last 13 games there since the start of the 2010. The Yankees’ .594 winning percentage based on a 38-26 record is the highest all time for any American League club at Safeco Field. The Bombers have had four consecutive non-losing road season series against the Mariners.

Mariano Rivera has converted 17 of 18 career save opportunities at Safeco Field, with his only blown save coming Sept. 18, 2009 when current teammate Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mo leads the AL in saves (21), second-most in the majors behind the Pirates’ Jason Grilli (22).

Rivera converted each of his first 18 chances this season, prior to blowing his first and only save May 28 against the Mets at Citi Field. It marked his second-longest streak of converted save chances to start a season behind a 28-game stretch in 2008. He got his 21st save Tuesday against the Indians in the Yankees’ 58th game. That is the second-fewest number of team games needed for Rivera to reach 21 saves behind 2004 (52nd game). He reached the 20-saves plateau for the 16th time in his career, breaking a tie with Trevor Hoffman for the most such seasons in baseball history.

Mark Teixeira has 15 career home runs at Safeco Field, which is tied with Eric Chavez, now of the Diamondbacks, for second most there by someone who never played for the Mariners. The leader in that category is Rafael Palmeiro with 17.

With a two-run home run Wednesday, Travis Hafner has hit 38 home runs in games started by CC Sabathia, the most any player in games the lefthander has started. Teixeira is next with 29.

Earlier this week, All-Star selections were made in the Class A Florida State League and South Atlantic League. Catcher Gary Sanchez and right-handed pitcher Shane Green of Tampa were selected to play for the North Division. Chosen for the Southern Division from Charleston were right-handed pitchers Rafael De Paula and Gabe Encinas, left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns and catcher Peter O’Brien. De Paula was named the Southern Division starting pitcher.

Hall for Col. Ruppert; knife for A-Rod

NASHVILLE – There was good news and bad news for Yankees fans coming out of baseball’s Winter Meetings Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

First, the good news; another person associated with the Yankees was elected to the Hall of Fame. The Pre-Integration Era Veterans Committee elected former club owner Jacob Ruppert to the Hall, along with 19th-century catcher-third baseman Deacon White and umpire Hank O’Day.

Among Ruppert’s many contributions to the Yankees in his time as owner was the design of their pinstriped uniforms, the purchase of Babe Ruth’s contract from the Red Sox and the construction of the original Yankee Stadium, a palace among baseball parks in the 1920s. Ruppert’s nickname was “The Colonel,” even though his time as a colonel in the National Guard was short, certainly less than his four terms as a United States congressman from the Democratic Party.

“The election of Jacob Ruppert to the Hall of Fame is a great honor for the Yankees organization,” managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “Under his leadership, the Yankees became the most popular and successful team in baseball, setting the standard which we try to uphold today.”

Ruppert becomes the 48th individual enshrined in the Hall to have played, managed, coached, owned or been a general manager for the Yankees. He joins Ed Barrow, Larry MacPhail, Lee MacPhail and George Weiss among Hall of Famers who had ownership stakes or were general managers of the Yankees but never played for, coached or managed the club.

The bad news, however, is quite grim. Alex Rodriguez will require surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and will likely miss at least the first half of the 2013 season. The news, first reported by George King in the New York Post, is a severe blow to the Yankees but also serves to explain in part why the third baseman may have struggled so much during the past postseason when he hit .120 with 12 strikeouts in 25 at-bats.

“I do think that it’s a likely scenario that the struggles we saw in September and in October are more likely than not related to this issue,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said during a press conference here. “Clearly Alex was dealing with an issue that although he might be asymptomatic but the lower half and the way the mechanisms work, he wasn’t firing on all cylinders. There were times that we thought watching him that he was all arms and no legs, but again, there were no complaints, no pain, and then in the playoffs when he got pinch hit for, he did have a complaint that he felt his right hip wasn’t working right, and that was all clear.”

According to Cashman, Rodriguez told manager Joe Girardi in the dugout the night of Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles when A-Rod was lifted for pinch hitter Raul Ibanez, who hit a game-tying home run, that his right hip did not feel right. Rodriguez had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam after the game at New York Presbyterian Hospital that did not reveal any damage.

Rodriguez had a checkup during the offseason in Vail, Colo., which showed a tear in the left hip that was confirmed in a second opinion by Dr. Bryan Kelly, who will perform the operation at the Hospital for Special Surgery after A-Rod completes a four- to six-week pre-surgery regimen. The procedure is expected to require four to six months for recovery.

With the surgery likely to be scheduled in January, the earliest Rodriguez could be expected to play would be June and more realistically after the All-Star break in July.

So what do the Yankees do about third base for the first half of next season? Cashman all but ruled out the possibility of Eduardo Nunez playing there (“We see him as a shortstop,” the GM said) and pointed out that the club got through 2012 with several players in left field filling in for injured Brett Gardner.

Jayson Nix, who has re-upped with the Yanks for 2013, could be used in part of a platoon. Eric Chavez, who played in 64 games (50 starts) at the position last season, is now a free agent.

“My sole interest is just improving the entire club,” Cashman said. “Whether we solve any issue specifically at that position of third base, I can’t really answer.”

Yanks go silently, like their bats

Not to be flippant about it, but the Yankees saved their worst for last. Their season ended with a thud Thursday as Detroit completed a four-game sweep of the American League Championship Series with a convincing 8-1 victory. It marked the second consecutive season that the Tigers eliminated the Yankees from the postseason, becoming the first team to do that since the New York Giants in the World Series of 1921 and 1922. A year later, the Yankees won the first of their 27 championships, so maybe this will be a good omen.

Nothing feels good to the Yankees now. Getting swept in a postseason series is something the franchise is not used to. It had not happened to the Yankees since the 1980 ALCS when they lost in three games to the Royals back when the series was still a best-of-5. The Yankees had played 36 postseason series without getting swept before Thursday.

It is not at all that difficult to analyze what went wrong for the Yankees. They simply did not hit. They scored in only three of the 39 innings of the series and only six runs total. They never had the lead for a single inning in the series, something that happened to them only once before, in the 1963 World Series when they were swept by the Dodgers.

Actually, the Yankees’ offense was pretty scarce throughout the postseason, but they were picked up by their pitching staff. The remarkable work of the rotation also ended Thursday as CC Sabathia, who got the Yanks into the ALCS with a complete-game triumph over the Orioles in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, came apart.

But what the Yankees needed more than a big game from CC Thursday was a big game from the lineup. Nick Swisher came up with his first run-scoring hit with a runner in scoring position in this postseason with a double in the sixth inning, but that was it as the team that set a franchise record with 245 home runs this year continued to falter in the postseason. A team that averaged 1.5 home runs per game during the regular season had only seven home runs in nine postseason games.

Raul Ibanez supplied most of the muscle with three dramatic home runs, but the Yankees got no homers from their usual sluggers – Swisher, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. It was not just a power outage, either. The Yankees’ team batting average was .157 in the ALCS and .188 overall in the postseason.

Ibanez’s heroics pinch hitting for Rodriguez in Game 4 of the ALDS unfortunately created a media circus around A-Rod, who had been rendered helpless against right-handed pitching in postseason play (0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts) and was benched in the final game of the ALDS and the last two games of the ALCS. Rodriguez has taken the blunt of the blame for the Yanks’ ouster, which is unfair.

He was part of the problem but by no means all of it. Eric Chavez, who replaced Rodriguez at third base, was hitless in 16 at-bats and made two costly errors in the ALCS. Curtis Granderson, who hit 43 home runs during the regular season, homered in Game 5 of the ALDS but was 0-for-11 in the ALCS. He had only two hits other than the home runs in 30 postseason at-bats and struck out 16 times. Swisher hit .167 with 10 strikeouts.

Then there was the strange case of Cano, who endured one of the cruelest postseasons for a New York player that brought to mind the struggles of Yankees right fielder Dave Winfield (1-for-22 in the 1981 World Series) and Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman Gil Hodges (0-for-21 in the 1952 World Series).

Cano entered the postseason as the hottest hitter in baseball with a streak of nine multi-hit games in which he went 24-for-39, a .615 tear. The All-Star second baseman managed only three hits in 40 postseason at-bats (.075), including 1-for-18 (.056) against Detroit pitching. Cano went 29 at-bats without a hit over one stretch, the longest postseason drought in club history, which covers a lot of ground. This was the Yankees’ 51st postseason covering 73 series.

As it turned out, 2012 was a season in which the Yankees peaked too soon. They were running away with the AL East by mid-July with a double-digit lead and then had to fight and claw to finish in first place at season’s end. The same Baltimore team that hounded them in the regular season pushed them to the full five games of the ALDS. A talented Detroit staff headed by the game’s most talent pitcher, Justin Verlander, kept the Yankees’ bat silenced.

Now silence is all there is left of the Yankees’ season.

Yanks face 0-3 deficit for 4th time in postseason play

The Yankees trail in the American League Championship Series, 0-3, for the first time in 10 ALCS appearances since the advent of the best-of-7 format in 1985. It is the fourth time in 71 postseason series that the Yankees have trailed 0-3. The other times were all in the World Series, in 1922 against the Giants (which included a Game 2 tie), 1963 against the Dodgers and 1976 against the Reds. In each case, the Yankees lost in four games.

This is the fifth time in 27 ALCS under the best-of-7 drill that a team has taken a 3-0 lead in the series. The only team to rally from 0-3 to win the ALCS was the 2004 Red Sox against the Yankees. Each of the other three teams to go down 0-3 were swept in four games – 1988 Red Sox, by the Athletics; 1990 Red Sox, by the A’s; 2006 A’s, by the Tigers. . .In each of their six ALCS, the Tigers have won Game 3, with all six games coming at home: 3-0 against the A’s in 1972; 1-0 against the Royals in 1984; 7-6 against the Twins in 1987; 3-0 against the Athletics in 2006; 5-2 against the Rangers in 2011 and 2-1 against the Yankees in 2012. The Tigers have won five of their past six ALCS games in Detroit.

Tigers Game 3 starter Justin Verlander ran his consecutive postseason shutout innings streak to 23 before he allowed a run in the ninth inning of Game 3 on the home run by Eduardo Nunez. It was the first home run Verlander yielded in the ninth inning of his career, postseason included. Nunez was the 85th batter the Verlander has faced in the ninth inning in his career. The Yankees did not score in 20 straight innings before Nunez’s homer. They were also shut out in 20 straight innings in the 2000 postseason against the Athletics (ALDS) and Mariners (ALCS).

Robinson Cano ended his streak of hitless at-bats at 29 with a two-out single in the ninth inning. It was the longest postseason hitless stretch in franchise history. The MLB record is 42 straight hitless at-bats by Mariners catcher Dan Wilson. . . Eric Chavez has started the 2012 postseason without a hit in 14 at-bats, which ties the longest streak by a Yankees player at the start of a postseason. Graig Nettles began the 1981 postseason with 14 hitless at-bats. The major-league record for hitless at-bats at the start of a postseason is 22 by the Cardinals’ Dal Maxvill in the 1968 World Series against the Tigers.

Alex Rodriguez, who was on the bench in Game 3, was not the only player with 600 or more career home runs to sit out a postseason game for which he was eligible. There were three others – Ken Griffey Jr. (Game 2 of the 2008 ALDS for the White Sox against the Rays), Willie Mays (Games 1 through 4 of the 1973 NLCS for the Mets against the Reds and Games 4 through 7 of the 1973 World Series for the Mets against the A’s) and Jim Thome (Games 1 and 5 of the 2012 ALDS for the Orioles against the Yankees). Babe Ruth played in all four games of the 1932 World Series for the Yankees against the Cubs, the only postseason series of his career that came after he hit his 600th home run. Barry Bonds played in all 17 of the Giants’ postseason games in 2002 and all four Giants’ postseason games in 2003, the only two postseasons to come after his 600th homer. Henry Aaron and Sammy Sosa did not play on teams that advanced to postseason play following their 600th home runs.

Through eight postseason games this year, the Yankees are batting .200 in 290 at-bats. The previous low-water mark for the Yankees’ first eight postseason games was .207 in the 1921 World Series against the Giants, which was then a best-of-9. Only two Yankees teams have finished a postseason with lower batting averages, the World Series clubs of 1962 (.199 in a 7-game victory over the Giants) and 1963 (.171 in a 4-game loss to the Dodgers). . .Through eight postseason games, the Yankees’ team ERA is 2.25, which would be the 10th-best for a single postseason in franchise history. It is the lowest mark since the team’s 1.60 ERA in the Yanks’ 5-game World Series victory over the Reds in 1961.

Miguel Cabrera’s fifth-inning double extended his LCS hitting streak to 16 games, dating to the 2003 National League Championship Series for the Marlins, breaking the previous mark of 15 straight LCS games with hits by Pete Rose and Manny Ramirez. . . Cabrera has reached base safely in all 19 career postseason games with the Tigers. His streak set a franchise record, passing the 18-game mark of Hank Greenberg from Oct. 3, 1934 to Oct. 4, 1945. During the 19-game streak, Cabrera is batting .303 with seven doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI, 10 runs scored, 16 walks and one hit batter in 66 at-bats. Only one player in history began his postseason career with a single team with a longer streak of reaching base – Boog Powell, who reached base in his first 25 postseason games with the Orioles from 1966-71. Cabrera has failed to reach base in two of his 36 career postseason games with the Marlins and Tigers.

Delmon Young has five home runs over consecutive postseason series against the Yankees – the 2011 ALDS and 2012 ALCS. Young is one of only five players with a combined five home runs in consecutive postseason series against the Yankees. Duke Snider did it three times (4 HR in 1952 World Series, 1 HR in 1953 World Series, 4 HR in 1955 World Series, 1 HR in 1956 World Series). The others are George Brett (3 HR in 1978 ALCS, 2 HR in 1980 ALCS), Juan Gonzalez (5 HR in 1996 ALDS, 0 HR in 1998 ALDS) and David Ortiz (2 HR in 2003 ALCS, 3 HR in 2004 ALCS). Chase Utley (2008 World Series) and Ken Griffey Jr. (1995 ALDS) each hit five home runs in one postseason against the Yankees, but they have not faced the Yankees again in the postseason.

Tigers push Yanks to 0-3 precipice in ALCS

Jose Valverde was not around to give the Yankees a helping hand Tuesday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series as he did in Game 1 when they came back from a 4-0 deficit to push it into extra innings.

The margin was half that this time, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland instead stayed with his starter, and who could blame him when the starter was Justin Verlander? After eight innings of getting nothing off the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner other than two singles by Ichiro Suzuki, the Yankees actually chased Verlander from the game but could not shove it into extras against lefthander Phil Coke, who gave up a couple of two-out singles before ending the game with a dazzling 3-2 slider to strike out Raul Ibanez.

Cut Ibanez some slack. He cannot do it all, even though it seems that he must. The Yanks are the last place they want to be – down, three games to none to the Tigers in the ALCS. Only once in the history of best-of-seven postseason baseball has a club overcome that deficit. The Yankees do not need to be reminded about that. They were on the other side of that equation in 2004 when the Red Sox ran off four straight victories to get to the World Series where they won four more in a row to end the Curse of the Bambino.

Although it must pain the Yankees to rely on something the Red Sox did for inspiration, that is the dilemma they find themselves in now. Having ace CC Sabathia on the mound for Game 4 Wednesday night is a plus, but, frankly, to this point pitching has not been the Yanks’ problem. They have a staff ERA of 3.10, which should not result in a record of 0-3.

Despite the ninth-inning rally Tuesday night, the Yankees’ offense remains anemic. Their only run in Game 3 came on a leadoff homer in the ninth off Verlander by Eduardo Nunez, who was not even on the Yankees’ original roster for the ALCS. He was added when Derek Jeter had to be removed because of a left ankle fracture sustained in the final inning of Game 1.

Nunez’s homer ended a scoreless streak of 20 innings for the Yankees, who have scored in only two of 30 innings in this series and have not had the lead in any one of them. They are hitting a collective .182 with a .291 slugging percentage in the ALCS.

A single by Mark Teixeira in a gritty at-bat and an opposite-field knock by Robinson Cano to halt a hitless string of 29 at-bats, the longest in franchise history in postseason play, kicked the Yankees in gear with two down in the ninth, but it was awfully late. Ibanez did not have another miracle in his bat.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi altered his lineup somewhat, but the results except for Nunez were not all that favorable. Brett Gardner, who played left field and batted leadoff, was 0-for-4 at the plate and failed to get a ball out of the infield. Eric Chavez, who started at third base over Alex Rodriguez, was 0-for-3 and made an error that led to an unearned run that was the difference in the game.

A-Rod was not only benched but also buried on it. He was not even called on to bat as a pinch hitter against the left-handed Coke. Girardi reasoned that had he summoned Rodriguez to hit for Ibanez the Tigers would have countered with righthander Joaquin Benoit. The manager preferred the Ibanez-vs.-Coke matchup than Rodriguez-vs.-Benoit.

That may not have been vintage Verlander out there, but the Yankees did no real damage against him. He had only three strikeouts but did not walk anyone. Verlander may have fallen out of his rhythm in the lengthy fourth and fifth innings when the Yankees made several pitching changes, but he did not cave in.

And still, due in large part to outstanding ensemble work by five relievers, the Yankees were in the game. Verlander would have been pitching with a more comfortable margin had the Tigers not stranded 10 base runners – six in scoring position – over the first six innings. It was another example of Yankees pitchers doing their jobs and Yankees hitters not doing theirs.

For all the success in the Yankees’ storied history of 27 World Series titles and 40 AL pennants, the ALCS loss in 2004 remains a deep wound that would finally be healed if they could pull the same trick. The task begins with Game 4. They should not think of anything else but that until a victory leads to Game 5…and Game 6…and Game 7. Lord knows the Yanks know it is possible.

Backache forces Hughes to make early exit

The Yankees’ string of quality starts in postseason play came to an abrupt and painful end in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series when Phil Hughes was forced to come out of the game while pitching to his third batter in the fourth inning. It marked the first time in this postseason that a Yankees starter did not pitch into the seventh inning.

Hughes allowed only one run – on a home run by Tigers designated hitter Delmon Young – in three-plus innings, so the ERA of the Yankees’ rotation did not grow much, from 2.33 to 2.68. But the early exit pushed manager Joe Girardi into his bullpen far sooner than he anticipated. The Yankees used four pitches before the fifth inning was completed.

Yankees starters had averaged 7 2/3 innings pitched in the first seven postseason games. Except for the home run, Hughes had pitched fairly well. He walked Andy Dirks, the batter after Young homered, but got ahead 0-2 in the count on Jhonny Peralta before his back acted up. Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild made a visit to the mound and decided they could not entrust so crucial a game to a hurt pitcher.

Eric Chavez, who started at third base over Alex Rodriguez, committed an error in the fifth that proved costly. Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove winner, could not handle a spinning grounder by fleet Quintin Berry on the short hop. Miguel Cabrera made the Yankees pay for the miscue with a double to right-center off David Phelps that made the score 2-0.

Chavez atoned for his boot the next inning with a splendid, back-handed stop of a hot shot by Cabrera with the bases loaded to start an around-the-horn double play that ended the threat. The twin killing illuminated third base coach Gene Lamont’s conservative call to stop Omar Infante at third base on a single by pinch hitter Avisail Garcia preceding the Cabrera at-bat.

Yankees fans have their own debate

Hours before the Presidential debate at Hofstra, Yankees fans had plenty to debate about the team’s lineup for American League Championship Series Game 3 at Detroit’s Comerica Park. No Alex Rodriguez. No Nick Swisher. Eduardo Nunez is playing shortstop. Where do we begin?

Well, the starting point is that the Yankees are down 0-2 in the series with no Derek Jeter, the next three games (they hope; it could be only two) in the other club’s yard and the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner on the mound Tuesday night. How’s that for backs against the wall?

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that the lack of production from A-Rod and Swish in the postseason needed to be replaced by something different. Brett Gardner, who has had three at-bats since April, was inserted in left field and the leadoff spot with Ichiro Suzuki moving to right field and batting second.

Gardner joins Ichiro and Curtis Granderson to give the Yankees their swiftest outfield, which is important at spacious Comerica and a fly-ball pitcher, Phil Hughes, starting for them. Despite hitting two home runs during the regular season off Verlander, Rodriguez has been struggling big-time right-handing pitching in the postseason, which has resulted in Girardi lifting him for pinch hitters twice and benching him in the final game of the AL Division Series.

Using Eric Chavez at third base allows Girardi to get another left-handed batter, Raul Ibanez, the postseason batting star for the Yankees, in the lineup as the designated hitter. Nunez at short is definitely a gamble. He is a liability on defense, but the Yankees need a boost in offense (they were held scoreless in 21 of 22 innings in the first two games).

Let’s face it; the whole lineup is a gamble. When you are in the situation the Yankees are, rolling the dice is all that is left.

Yanks and Orioles fittingly go down to the wire

For 10 weeks, the Orioles whittled away a 10-game deficit in the American League East to the Yankees, eventually drawing even in mid-September. Back and forth the teams went all that month with Baltimore unable to unseat the Yankees from first place.

The two clubs wound up opposing each other in the AL Division Series in another see-saw skirmish that fittingly will go down to the wire. There is no more appropriate way for the Yankees and the Orioles to settle this business between them that on the field at Yankee Stadium Friday night in a winner-to-advance finale.

“It is pretty fitting,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It has been a grind the whole year. It has been a fight to stay ahead of this club the whole year.”

Game 4 Friday night went 13 innings with the Orioles coming back from a hard, 12-inning loss Thursday night to win, 2-1, in one of their patented one-run, extra-inning affairs. The Orioles are 17-3 postseason included in extras this year, but all three losses have been to the Yankees.

Each side used eight pitchers. It came down to David Phelps giving up a pair of doubles to Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy in the 13th for the deciding run. Jim Johnson, who blew a save opportunity Thursday night on the first of Raul Ibanez’s two dramatic home runs, retired the side in order in the bottom of the 13th.

For the second straight game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Alex Rodriguez for a pinch hitter against the right-handed Johnson. Ibanez had already been used off the bench in the ninth as a pinch hitter for Jayson Nix and grounded out. Batting for A-Rod in the 13th was fellow third baseman Eric Chavez, who lined out to Machado at third base to end the game.

Phelps entered the game in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was struck in the right elbow by the top half of Matt Wieters’ shattered bat on the follow-through of his single to left field. Phelps got the next three batters out but was in immediate trouble in the 13th when Machado lined a double to right-center.

Nate McLouth, who had accounted for Baltimore’s run in regulation time with a homer run in the fifth off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, advanced Machado to third base with a grounder to the right side. It proved unnecessary when Hardy doubled to left-center. He also got to third on an infield out but was stranded as Adam Jones made the third out on a pepper shot.

Keeping the rally to one run kept the Yankees’ chances alive to tie the score with one swing as Ibanez had done the previous night. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Chavez came up short, which brings this tug of war between the two best teams in the AL East to an apt conclusion.

Ibanez finished what he did not start

All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.

Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.

This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.

The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.

Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.

Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.

Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.

Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.

As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.

He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.

The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.

In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.

A-Rod stays in 3-hole; Hughes to start Game 4

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had no real surprises in his lineup for Wednesday night’s Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. All the critics who expected Alex Rodriguez to be removed from the 3-hole were probably not satisfied to see him there once again, albeit as the designated hitter rather than at third base.

Even that was not a surprise. Eric Chavez got the start at third basically because he is one of the few Yankees hitters who has good numbers against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez, who held them to a .196 batting average in two Stadium starts during the regular season. Chavez had 3-for-6 (.500) with one home run and two RBI against Gonzalez.

The argument against Rodriguez batting third can be pretty compelling. He has 1-for-9 (.111) with five strikeouts in the series. Not very good, I grant you. However, he was robbed of an RBI hit in the first inning of Game 1 by second baseman Roberto Andino’s lucky grab of a line drive headed for center field that instead became a double play.

Anyone who recalls the way Girardi flummoxed on a nightly basis about his batting order when A-Rod was on the disabled list in July and August should not be stunned to see him pretty much leave things alone. Girardi has a thing about not stacking his left-handed hitters, which if he bats Robinson Cano third and drops Rodriguez to sixth he would be doing with four consecutive left-handed hitters.

And it is important to note that Cano, Curtis Granderson and switch hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher (both of whom bat left-handed against right-handed pitchers) entered Game 3 a combined 0-for-21 against Gonzalez.

Too much has been made in the press about the situation in 2006 when then Yankees manager Joe Torre dropped Rodriguez into the 8-hole when he was slumping in that year’s ALDS. The situation then had more to do with Torre’s not notifying A-Rod about the move before posting the lineup card, a severe breach of clubhouse etiquette on the manager’s part.

Girardi was not with the Yankees in 2006 (he was managing the Marlins), but his explanation seemed to reflect on that instance.

“I think whenever you move a player, it has a chance not only to affect the player but also the whole team, too,” Girardi said. “There are different things you have to worry about. Sometimes moving one player causes you to move two or three or maybe even four because our lineup is built around somewhat protecting our left-handed hitters from matchups. That’s a concern, too.”

Another Girardi decision that may be a topic of debate among fans is his notifying Phil Hughes that he would be the Game 4 starting pitcher regardless of the outcome of Game 3. There has been speculation in the media that Girard should bring CC Sabathia on short rest to start Game 4 if the Yankees should lose Game 3 and fall behind, 2-1, in the best-of-5 series.

I think Joe is right. Look at it this way. If the Yankees lose Game 3, they would need to win two more games to take the series. So they are going to need Hughes to start one of those games. It is not a good idea to have Andy Pettitte, 40 and not far removed from a broken leg, start Game 5 on short rest. So if you need Hughes to be in the rotation, what difference does it make if it is Game 4 or Game 5? There is no point in putting in Hughes’ mind that he is not capable of winning an important game.

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