Throughout the Yankee Stadium tunnel that connects the home dugout and clubhouse, Joe Girardi pointed at Raul Ibanez, driving a stationary bike, and issued a straightforward command:
“You’re hitting second.”
“Second?” Ibanez thought, his ideas racing. “Who’s hitting second? Is it Ichiro? Why would I hit for Ichiro?” Unable to do the maths by himself, the 40-year-old expanded his query by speaking out loud: “Who’s hitting second?”
On the bike subsequent to him, youthful Eduardo Nunez turned to Ibanez and cautiously mouthed the reply:
If the 2012 Yankees had gained the World Sequence, the excellent story of that season’s ALDS Sport Three would preserve the an identical legendary standing as, say, 1996 ALCS Sport 1, or 2001 ALDS Sport 3 — completely different runways to a championship or a minimum of a pennant. Even with out that follow-up, though, Ibanez’s pinch-hitting journey counts as one in every of many 2010s most attention-grabbing Huge Apple ballgames. As a result of amicable slugger’s late-innings heroics in opposition to the Orioles. As a result of boldness required to put him up there throughout the first place.
On account of, as you probably discover by now, “Alex” was Alex Rodriguez.
Acknowledged Joe Girardi, who has managed 1,782 major-league, regular-season contests and one different 52 throughout the postseason and might resume his managerial occupation subsequent season with the Phillies: “That was the toughest dedication I ever wanted to make, and I almost certainly toiled over it as quite a bit as I’ve toiled over any dedication.”
A-Rod, then 37, about three years youthful than Ibanez, had slowed down considerably by 2012, however he nonetheless ranked as an above-average hitter, his .272/.353/.430 slash line contributing to the Yankees’ 13th AL East crown in 17 years. Nonetheless, he had broken a bone in his left hand in July, inserting him out of movement for over a month, and he was affected by a crucial left hip downside that required surgical process after the season. Upon his return in September, A-Rod produced merely three homers and three doubles in 111 at-bats. His fall struggles, proof later emerged, led him to reinitiate contact with Anthony Bosch, his supplier of illegal performance-enhancers on the time.
“He didn’t look the an identical in September,” Girardi acknowledged. “We continued to play him realizing that at any stage, he could flip into Alex as soon as extra.”
Throughout the first two ALDS video video games in Baltimore, A-Rod went 1-for-9 with a groundball single, a stroll and 5 strikeouts. Most notably to Girardi, when the Yankees gained Sport 1 by pounding Baltimore nearer Jim Johnson, A-Rod didn’t partake, whiffing on four pitches.
For Sport Three in The Bronx, Girardi switched A-Rod from third base to DH, guaranteeing that Ibanez, who had delivered vitality and administration after signing a one-year contract, would begin the game on the bench. The supervisor saved working by the use of the game to return again, though, as he watched batting observe.
“It caught my eye all through BP what variety of balls Raul hit out of the ballpark,” Girardi acknowledged. “It caught out in my head, ‘If this recreation goes like Buck [Showalter, the Orioles’ manager] wants it to go, I’m gonna pinch-hit [Ibanez for A-Rod].”
In spite of everything, “You’re praying that state of affairs doesn’t arrive,” Girardi acknowledged, and naturally, it did, the Orioles grabbing a 2-1 lead off Hiroki Kuroda throughout the fifth and the Yankees occurring quietly the following four frames; A-Rod went hitless, placing out twice, in his three journeys to the plate. Due to this fact as Showalter went to Johnson, Girardi went to his nuclear selection, with Ibanez, pinch-hitting for A-Rod, scheduled up after Suzuki throughout the ninth.
“I’ve all these emotions going by the use of my ideas,” Ibanez acknowledged. “I’m enthusiastic in regards to the magnitude of the second throughout the context of New York. The headlines the next day. How that’s going to show.”
“Clearly, my concern about pinch-hitting for Alex was not that day, nevertheless shifting forward, the psyche of Alex,” Girardi acknowledged, though he admitted moreover pondering, “Can you take into consideration what I’m going to be requested [after the game]?”
Johnson started off Ibanez with a curveball that broke out of the zone. Then bought right here a two-seamer throughout the plate, precisely the pitch that Ibanez envisioned. He drilled it over the wall in right-center. Tie recreation.
“I couldn’t wait to get throughout the bases and get throughout the dugout alongside together with your teammates,” Ibanez acknowledged. “Alex was the first man on the very best step.”
That the Yankees’ subsequent eight hitters made outs, with their relievers holding down the Orioles, foreshadowed the offensive devastation which will get them swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers. This, though, was Ibanez’s night. The lefty swinger didn’t ideas principal off the underside of the 12th in opposition to O’s southpaw Brian Matusz, who had bested Ibanez in three matchups that August and September.
“I had familiarity with him, on account of Joe left me in these a lot much less important [situations],” Ibanez acknowledged. “I’m contemplating, ‘Let’s stroll ’em off.’”
Good contemplating. Ibanez smoked Matusz’s first pitch, a cutter, into the right-field second deck. Sport over, the Yankees 3-2 winners and up 2-1 in video video games. In no way sooner than in a postseason recreation, and by no means since, had a participant gone deep twice with every homers coming throughout the ninth inning or later.