- Other than Ibanez, the hero of the night was definitely Hiroki Kuroda, who held the Orioles to two runs and five hits over 8.1 innings. he got caught trying to throw get me over breaking balls to Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, Baltimore’s eighth and ninth hitters, both of which were turned around for home runs, but that was about the extent of the damage he allowed. He wasn’t at his sharpest, hitting two batters on the night, including Mark Reynolds to load the bases with two outs in the fourth inning, but he made big pitches when he had to and went deep into the game to keep the team in the game while the offense floundered. Huge, huge, effort by Kuroda tonight.
- In addition to Ibanez, a couple of other guys deserve some kudos for that ninth inning home run. First, Joe Girardi, for having the guts to actually call on him to pinch hit for A-Rod. I thought he should have done the same thing on Monday night, but he didn’t, and even though I broached the topic again tonight I never actually thought he would really do it until I saw Ibanez in the on deck circle. That’s an out of character move for Girardi, but exactly what this time of year calls for. Secondly, A-Rod himself deserves at least some acknowledgement for being the first guy off of the bench to congratulate Ibanez, especially since the TBS broadcasters decided to rehash Joe Torre’s claims that Alex is only about numbers earlier in the night. Really looked like a guy who doesn’t care about his team there.
- Russell Martin and Derek Jeter both got two hits on the night and were the only Yankees to do anything against Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez. The only run the Yankees got on anything other than an Ibanez home run came in the third inning when Martin doubled into left and Jeter followed with a triple to the warning track in center field. Adam Jones probably should have caught the ball, but he got a bad read off the bat, took a step or two in, and then couldn’t recover in time to catch up to it.
- Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, and David Robertson combined to pitch 3.2 innings and keep Baltimore off of the scoreboard. The only time any of them were in trouble was in the 10th inning when Soriano allowed Robert Andino to get to second after a sacrifice bunt by Machado, but he managed to work out of it and finish the inning. Robertson and Soriano both pitched more than one inning, while Logan stayed in just long enough to strike out Jim Thome. Kuroda made it pretty easy on him, but that was good bullpen management by Girardi nonetheless.
- The Yankees were hoping that the third time would be the charm against Miguel Gonzalez, but alas they didn’t fare any better against him than they did the first two times they saw him this year. And with the exception of Jeter and Martin, they barely looked like major league hitters against him either. Gonzalez ended his night having struck out eight Yankees with no walks, five hits, and just a sole run allowed. He threw only 99 pitches before being taken out after the seventh, much to the consternation of just about every Orioles fan I know. Martin and Jeter were due up in the eighth, however, and Darren O’Day did work a perfect inning in relief before Johnson blew the save.
- A-Rod is bound to get the headlines after going 0-3 with two strikeouts, and obviously being pinch hit for with the game on the line, but the worst at bat of the night, by far belonged to Robinson Cano, who struck out on four pitches in the sixth inning without seeing a pitch anywhere near the strike zone. Seriously, the Orioles were trying to pitch around him with two outs and the bases empty, and he went up there hacking blindly in obvious frustration. There’s really no excuse for that.
- Derek Jeter left the game after the eighth inning with an apparent foot injury. He fouled a ball off of the top of his left foot in the first inning, and was in obvious pain for the rest of the night. Several times TBS caught him limping so bad he could hardly walk, and he was unable to put his weight onto his front foot when he struck out to end the eighth inning. Jayson Nix replaced him and made a nice unassisted double play to end the tenth inning He was diagnosed with a bone bruise in the foot, and is officially listed as day to day.
The bottom line:
The Yankees snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and moved within a win of advancing to the ALCS. What’s more, for the first time all season they may have left the Orioles wondering if they really can beat the Bombers, or if they’re going to come up just short. The looks on pretty much everyone in a Baltimore uniform after Ibanez took Matusz deep in the 12th was one of abject dejection, but they’ll have no time to dwell on losing a) a one run game, b) an extra innings game for the first time in 17 such contests, c) when leading after the seventh inning for the first time all year. Also, you have to wonder if Buck Showalter will have any hesitation about using Johnson in a big situation tomorrow after the closer has failed to get the job in two of the last three games. Either way, the Yankees now have two chances to take the series, and have at least guaranteed that they’ll get the ball back into the hands of C.C. Sbathia before the series ends. They’d much prefer to take care of business tomorrow, however, when Phil Hughes takes the mound to face Joe Saunders, the hero of the Orioles’ last elimination game.