Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire
Raul Ibanez had plenty to celebrate after his walk-off homer.The Baltimore Orioles were winning Wednesday’s Game 3 against the Yankees on the power of three rookies -- Ryan Flaherty, Manny Machado and Miguel Gonzalez.
But this game would not be won with youth. It would be won by the experience of New York Yankees veteran Raul Ibanez, who provided the first ultra-dramatic moments of the 2012 postseason in his two at-bats.
Inside the history books
The 40-year-old Ibanez became the oldest player to hit a postseason walk-off home run. He’s the first player to hit two home runs in the ninth inning or later of a postseason game.
He’s the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying postseason home run in the ninth inning since the man he pinch-hit for, Alex Rodriguez, had two in 2009.
He’s the oldest player with two home runs in a postseason game and the first player with a multi-homer game off the bench in postseason play.
The home run was the 12th postseason walk-off home run in Yankees history. The team with the next-most is the Red Sox, with five.
Inside the Matchup: Ibanez versus Jim Johnson
The game-tying home run is an Ibanez specialty. He had three during the regular season in the seventh inning or later, including a 13th-inning homer against the Athletics and a ninth-inning homer against the Red Sox in the final two weeks of the season.
Game-Tying Pinch-Hit HR
9th Inning Or Later In Postseason
It came against a 94-mph sinker thrown over the heart of the plate. Our pitch-tracking software describes it as “middle-middle,” meaning the middle-third of the strike zone height-wise and width-wise.
Ibanez is the rare hitter who doesn’t blow you away with his “middle-middle” numbers. He had 12 hits against pitches to that spot, but also 34 outs. His .255 batting average against middle-middle pitches was the lowest of anyone on the Yankees in the regular season.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson had gotten away with that pitch at the end of the regular season. From Aug. 4 to the end of the regular season, he threw 24 middle-middle pitches, resulting in eight outs and no hits.
In Game 1 of the ALDS he threw a middle-middle pitch to Ibanez, who grounded it for a single to right field. He threw another that Robinson Cano lined for a two-run double. Those balls stayed in the ballpark.
The next one he threw would not.
Inside the Matchup: Ibanez versus Brian Matusz
Raul Ibanez has 61 at-bats against left-handed pitching during the regular season. He hit .197 with no home runs in those turns and missed on 30 percent of his swings.
Oldest Player With Walk-Off HR
Ibanez was 0-for-4 in at-bats versus lefties that ended on the first pitch.
Matusz had been dominant against left-handed hitters recently. He’d gotten big outs this postseason against Josh Hamilton and Curtis Granderson. Lefties were 0 for their last 10 with seven strikeouts against him.
Matusz threw Ibanez a pitch in the upper third of the strike zone on the outer third of the plate. The last time he allowed a hit to a lefty on a pitch to that spot was against the Yankees on May 1. Granderson hit one for a home run in the Bronx.
He’d throw it 54 times since that home run without giving up another hit. Until he faced Ibanez.
Stat of the Night: Inside the loss
The Orioles were unbeaten when leading after seven innings in the regular season, had won their previous 16 extra-inning games, and were the only team since 1900 not to lose a game in walk-off fashion during a regular season.
All of those streaks and trends were broken with that home run.