Alex Rodriguez could have been embarrassed and pouted after being replaced in the bottom of the 9th inning during Game 3 of the ALDS on Wednesday, but the Yankees DH was leading the cheers after pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez delivered an improbable game-tying home run in his place, and later another home run to win it.
Rodriguez had been struggling during the series, going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts in the first two games against Baltimore, and 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Wednesday. Despite calls for him to be dropped in the batting order, manager Joe Girardi kept the struggling slugger in the third spot. But with one out and the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the 9th inning, Girardi opted to pinch-hit for A-Rod with Ibanez.
Ibanez, who was 1-for-3 in the series, crushed a home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson to tie the game at two and send it to extra innings. He later clubbed a second-deck walk-off home run to lead off the bottom of the 12th and win the game 3-2.
A-Rod spoke after the game about being a good teammate despite a personally embarrassing situation.
“Joe (Girardi) and I had a discussion and we’ve preached all year that it’s about 25 guys, it’s about doing whatever it takes to win. I’m one of the leaders of this team. Maybe 10 years ago I react in a much different way, but I’m at a place right now in my career where team is everything. I don’t think anybody in the ballpark was more excited for [Ibanez] than me.”
The clutch home runs will no doubt put Ibanez in a heralded class of Yankees postseason heroes. The bold move by Girardi paid off. And those who questioned whether Rodriguez was more focused on individual production rather than team success might have to evaluate their thinking.Google+