Ibanez homers lift Yankees; A's force Game 5; Cards, Giants win
Raul Ibanez lined a tying home run while pinch-hitting for slumping Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning and hit a leadoff homer in the 12th to give the New York Yankees a stunning 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their AL division series.
Batting for baseball's highest-paid player, Ibanez homered to right-center field with one out in the ninth inning off major league saves leader Jim Johnson to tie the score, 2-2. He connected on the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the 12th.
Ibanez became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn't start, STATS LLC said.
Phil Hughes will try to clinch it for the Yankees on Thursday night in Game 4 of the best-of-five series. Joe Saunders will start for Baltimore.
Baltimore had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and had been 76-0 when leading after seven, before the Yankees stung them.
"It was a great experience. We do it as a team. We stay after it," Ibanez said. "I'm blessed to come up and have the opportunity like that. We do it together. it's about a team and about winning."
Ibanez got that chance after Yankees Manager Joe Girardi made the decision to bat for Rodriguez -- the first time A-Rod had ever been pinch-hit for in a postseason game, according to STATS.
Yankees fans had been calling this week for Girardi to get Rodriguez out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. But Girardi was reluctant to move his fading slugger down in the lineup.
Until he toook him all the way out.
"You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. I just had a gut feeling," Girardi said.
Rodriguez has 647 career home runs -- he's chasing the all-time record of 762 by Barry Bonds -- but was only one for 12 with no runs batted in and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.
"He said, 'Do what you got to do,' " Girardi said, recalling Rodriguez's reaction.
"You're going to be asked a lot of questions if it doesn't work," the manager said.
The brash, young Orioles appeared poised to move within a game of their first trip to the AL Championship Series since 1997.
But Ibanez hit a 1-0 pitch into the seats in the ninth, setting off a raucous celebration in what had been a demoralized Yankee Stadium crowd. Rodriguez led the cheers, raising an arm in the dugout and high-fiving injured star Mariano Rivera.
"He said great job. A-Rod is a great teammate and great team player," Ibanez said. "He's the first one on the top step congratulating you. It's about winning. It's about the Yankees and continuing."
After their 10-game July lead was cut to zero in early September, the Yankees repelled every Orioles charge. The teams were tied 10 times in the final month but New York ended up atop the division.
New York won the opener in Baltimore scoring five runs in the ninth off Johnson. The Orioles won Game 2 and rode Miguel Gonzalez's pretty performance to a 2-1 lead in the ninth.
But the Yankees limited Baltimore to one hit after Manny Machado homered in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty homered earlier for the Orioles.
Robert Andino was doubled off second after leading off the Baltimore ninth with a single and advancing on a sacrifice.
Boone Logan got one out in relief of Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up two solo homers in 8 1/3 innings. Closer Rafael Soriano pitched 1 1/3 innings and David Robertson went two, finishing off his outing by bumping into and tagging Andino to end the top of the 12th.
Derek Jeter tied the score with an RBI triple in the third for the Yankees. Jeter, limping because of a sore ankle, came out after eight innings.
A's win, 4-3
OAKLAND -- Seth Smith, Coco Crisp and the never-say-die Oakland Athletics forced a Game 5 of their AL division series against the Detroit Tigers with their most memorable comeback yet.
Smith hit a game-tying two-run double off closer Jose Valverde in the ninth inning and Coco Crisp capped Oakland's most dramatic comeback yet with a two-out RBI single as the A's staved off elimination for a second straight night with a 4-3 victory in Game 4 Wednesday night.
The A's rode 14 walkoff wins in the regular season to an improbable AL West title. Those paled in comparison to No. 15, which set up a win-or-go-home Game 5 against Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
Josh Reddick started the rally with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Omar Infante. Josh Donaldson followed with a double off the wall in left-center and both runners scored on Smith's double. Two outs later, Crisp lined a single and Smith scored easily when right fielder Avisail Garcia couldn't handle the ball.
That set off a raucous celebration near first base as the A's poured out of the dugout to mob Crisp, who was the recipient of a whipped cream pie that became a regularity in this remarkable season in Oakland. This marked the second time the A's erased a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to win a postseason game, the other coming in Game 5 of the 1929 World Series.
The A's, who have the lowest payroll in baseball, need just one more surprising result to win their second postseason series since 1990. Rookie Jarrod Parker will take the mound in Game 5 on Thursday night against Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
The Tigers looked to be in prime position to advance to their second straight ALCS and have a rested Verlander for Game 1 when they took a 3-1 lead into the ninth behind a strong start from Max Scherzer and a homer from Prince Fielder.
Now the A's are one win away from repeating last week's three-game sweep of Texas that gave them the AL West title on the final day of the regular season. After losing the first two games in Detroit, the A's won 2-0 in Game 3 and are looking to become the eighth team to rally from two games down to win a best-of-five series.
Scherzer, who was dealing with shoulder, deltoid and ankle injuries late in the season, looked in top form against the A's. He allowed just one baserunner in the first four innings and struck out seven of the first 15 batters before running into his first trouble in the fifth.
Smith worked a two-out walk and went to third on Derek Norris' opposite-field blooper down the right-field line. But Scherzer responded by getting Cliff Pennington to chase an offspeed pitch in the dirt for his eighth strikeout.
The A's finally got to Scherzer for an unearned run in the sixth. Crisp reached when Fielder misplayed a hard grounder to first base into a two-base error. Crisp advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Stephen Drew's double to right-center. But the A's ran themselves out of a potential big inning when third-base coach Mike Gallego waved Drew around to third, where he was easily caught on the relay for the first out.
Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke both retired a batter to get out of the sixth and Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect seventh in his first appearance since his memorable kiss of the baseball on a comebacker by Yoenis Cespedes in Game 2. Joaquin Benoit escaped a first-and-second jam in the eighth by striking out Brandon Moss, but Valverde couldn't close it.
Cards pound Nationals
WASHINGTON — Chris Carpenter was every bit the postseason ace he's been in the past for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Taking the mound for only the fourth time in 2012, missing a rib after surgery to cure numbness on his right side, the 37-year-old Carpenter pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning, rookie Pete Kozma delivered a three-run homer, and the defending champion Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals, 8-0, Wednesday to take a 2-1 lead in their National League division series.
"If the baseball world doesn't know what an amazing competitor he is by now, they haven't been paying any attention," Carpenter's teammate Matt Holliday said. "Every guy on this team has watched him work his way back, watches him in between starts. He's a stud. Just a guy that you want out there."
All in all, it was quite a damper on the day for a Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans witnessing the first major league postseason game in the nation's capital in 79 years.
Three relievers finished the shutout for the Cardinals, who can end the best-of-five series Thursday in Game 4 at Washington.
Giants tie series
CINCINNATI — Angel Pagan led off the game with a home run, Gregor Blanco and Pablo Sandoval connected later and Tim Lincecum came out of the bullpen to help the San Francisco Giants beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 on Wednesday, evening their NL division series at 2-all.
The Giants can complete an unprecedented comeback on Thursday. No team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by winning three on the road.
Matt Cain, who lost the series opener and has yet to beat Cincinnati in three starts this season, will start Game 5 against Mat Latos.
The Reds haven't won a home playoff game in 17 years. One thing in Cincinnati's favor — it hasn't dropped three straight at home all season.
Lincecum relieved in the fourth inning with the Giants ahead 3-2. The two-time NL Cy Young winner struck out six in 4 1-3 innings, allowing one run.