There was a lot of skepticism that surrounded the Yankees offseason decision to sign free agent outfielder, Raul Ibanez, to a one year deal. There was doubt that the 40-year-old would have the stamina to contribute at a high level and endure an entire baseball season. On top of that, the club already seemed to be pretty well stacked in the outfield with Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher owning that territory it didn’t seem like there was much room for Ibanez.
But when Gardner went down spending the majority of the season on the DL, it left a space open in the outfield and Ibanez has filled it in nicely all year long, doing more than probably anyone could’ve ever expected. He continues to be relied on heavily and never seems to fail when called on, proof of that last night came when Ibanez single-handedly earned his team a huge win in game three of the ALDS.
Down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Joe Girardi finally made a gutsy call, the right call, the call fans have wanted him to step up and make, when he pulled the incompetent Alex Rodriguez who was due up to hit, and replaced him with pinch-hitter, Raul Ibanez. As cool as the breeze blowing through Yankee Stadium last night, he stepped up to the plate and popped a solo home run to tie things up and send the game to extra innings.
As if that wasn’t enough, he wasn’t quite finished yet. Remaining in the lineup as the DH for the night, he got another chance to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning and he didn’t waste any time taking care of business as he jumped on the first pitch he saw and sent it soaring into the upper deck in right field and gave his new team a 2-1 series lead in walk-off fashion.
This isn’t anything new for Ibanez though. Multiple times this season he’s stepped up with the game on the line and came through with game-tying or game-winning hits. While Alex Rodriguez continues his well-known postseason struggles at the plate, the Bombers needed someone to lift the stagnant offense and it came last night from the most unexpected source.
The victory last night gave the Yankees a much needed boost to take the lead in the series and give them a chance to wrap things up tonight in the Bronx. It’s to be determined as to how the A-Rod dramatics will play out for the remainder of the playoffs, but one thing is for sure, Raul Ibanez should play a larger role from this point on in the team’s quest for a 28th World Championship.
There shouldn’t be much question now as to what he means to this years team and what he’s still capable of doing on the field, especially with the pressure on. Legends are made in October, and after the heroics last night courtesy of Ibanez, there’s no doubt he’s inked his spot in the books with not one, but two of the biggest hits ever to to come in Yankee history.