Alex Rodriguez fine with move

Updated: October 11, 2012, 3:14 AM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Raul Ibanez stepped to the plate "not trying to do too much" for the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

He ended up doing it all.

The Yankees' veteran belted a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning and a game-winning solo shot in the 12th to lift the Bombers to a 3-2 win in Game 3 of their AL Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Ibanez is the first player in major league history to hit two homers in a postseason game with both coming in the ninth inning or later.

And he did it all in place of Alex Rodriguez, whom he pinch hit for with one out in the ninth.

Rodriguez said it was the first time he'd been pinch hit for in recent memory.

"Maybe high school," the struggling slugger said.

It was a gusty move by manager Joe Girardi, but one that made sense. Rodriguez was 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts in three games in the series. Girardi described the move as a "gut feeling" but admitted he knew he'd be asked "a lot of questions" if it didn't work out.

"I just went to (Rodriguez) and I said, 'You're scuffling a little bit right now, we have got a great low-ball hitter (in Ibanez) and we've got a shorter porch in right field than left obviously. Raul has been a good pinch-hitter for us and I'm just going to take a shot,' " the manager said.

How did Rodriguez react?

"He said, 'Just do what you've got to do,' " Girardi said.

Ibanez stepped to the plate and drilled Baltimore closer Jim Johnson's second pitch -- a 94-mph fastball -- into the right-field seats. It was the first time a Yankee hit a pinch-hit postseason homer to tie the game or give them a lead.

Rodriguez was one of the first players to greet Ibanez in the dugout.

"Unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "It was just one of the best performances I've ever seen."

In his next at-bat in the 12th, Ibanez hit the first pitch he saw to a similar spot in right off Orioles reliever Brian Matusz. He rounded the bases to a delirious roar from the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd.

"I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Ibanez said. "I don't even really remember what happened. It was kind of a blur what happened.

Ibanez's shot was the second latest of the 12 walk-off postseason home runs in Yankees' history. Only Jim Leyritz's 15th-inning homer in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS against the Seattle Mariners came later.

It capped a magical three-week run for the 40-year-old Ibanez. He has hit three game-tying homers in the ninth inning or later in the past three weeks.

His wife also gave birth to their fifth child a week ago.

"I'm a very blessed man," he said. "I have a healthy baby boy and my wife is healthy, my children are healthy, first and foremost, and then getting an opportunity to play for this great team, great franchise and being in that situation and having it work out that way is a great blessing."

Ibanez has been incredibly clutch for the Yankees all season. Eleven of his 21 homers (postseason included) have come in the seventh inning or later. He also entered the postseason red-hot, hitting .405 (15 for 37) with four homers and nine RBIs in the Yankees' final 11 games.

You could say Ibanez has been the anti-Rodriguez.

The Yankees' $300 million man is without a home run in his last 80 at-bats.

Rodriguez went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in Game 3. Since his remarkable playoff run in 2009, in which he helped the Yankees win the World Series, Rodriguez is hitting .135 (10 for 74) with six RBIs, no home runs and 19 strikeouts.

Rodriguez said after the game he feels comfortable and relaxed at the plate and had no doubt he would be in the lineup Thursday for Game 4.

"Tomorrow's another day and I'm coming right back at it and I'm going to be swinging out of my a--," he said.

Rodriguez, who served as the DH for the Yankees on Wednesday, also said he had no problem with being pinch hit for in the ninth.

"We've preached all year, it's about 25 guys, it's about whatever it takes to win," Rodriguez said. "I've got to be honest, I don't know how I would have reacted to that 10 years ago. But I've said -- and I know you guys don't like to hear it -- I've matured a lot over the last few years. And there's no one happier than me (for Ibanez) and it was an awesome moment, and a big win for us."

Girardi had contemplated moving Rodriguez out of the No. 3 hole before Game 3 after he struggled in the first two games.

Rodriguez struck out for the final out of Game 2 with the Yankees' most dangerous hitter, Robinson Cano, in the on-deck circle.

But the manager opted to stick with Rodriguez as his No. 3 hitter.

"I have faith in our players, I do, that they're going to get it done," Girardi said before the game. "And they have to know that I trust them. Because if they went up there every at-bat thinking, 'He's going to move me or he's going to take me out of the lineup,' that's a tough way to play."

After Wednesday's game, Girardi said he needed a night's sleep before deciding on a lineup for Game 4. One positive for Rodriguez: He's a career .438 hitter with two home runs and five RBIs in 16 career at-bats against Joe Saunders, who will start for the Orioles on Thursday.

Both Girardi and Rodriguez said the decision to pinch hit for Rodriguez would not affect their player-manager relationship.

"I'm Joe's biggest fan. Joe's always respected me to the utmost and I give it right back to him," Rodriguez said.

Added Girardi: "Sometimes you've got to do what your gut tells you, and my gut told me to make the move. I still have the utmost respect for Al and I still think he's a great player; he's just going through a little tough time right now."

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand and Wallace Matthews was used in this report.

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