NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Raul Ibanez #27 of the New York Yankees reaches his teammates at home place after hitting a walk off home run in the bottom of the twelfth inning against the Baltimore Orioles in Game Three of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on October 10, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
October 10th, 2012 was not only a thrilling playoff victory for the Yankees, but it was also a night when an unexpected hero emerged.
The Yankees had split the first two games of the ALDS with division rival Baltimore. The Orioles were up 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th inning with their closer Jim Johnson on the mound, who was the MLB saves leader that season.
Alex Rodriguez was due to bat that inning, but was just 1-12 in the series with fans begging for him to be moved down in the lineup. He had never been pinch hit for in a postseason game, until Joe Girardi rolled the dice and put in 40-year-old Raul Ibanez in A-Rod’s place. The gamble worked, as Ibanez crushed a game tying home run to right-center field, stunning Baltimore and giving the Yankees new life.
As Ibanez ran to the dugout after crossing home plate, he was greeted by Rodriguez before anyone else. The magic didn’t stop there, however. The old man looked like the power hitter he was with the Mariners, and hit a walk off home run off of the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the bottom of the 12th inning. He was the first player ever to homer twice in a playoff game in which he didn’t start.
Ibanez delivered when nobody else could. The offense had been shut down all night, and wouldn’t you know it, the 40-year-old came in for the highest paid player in baseball and won the game single-handedly. It seemed almost certain that the Yankees would be down 2-1 in the series after the bats fell silent. The night was Hollywood-esque, feeling magical and sending chills down the spines of baseball fans everywhere.