Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/10/12
NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi didn't drop struggling slugger Alex Rodriguez in the order, as New York Yankees fans had hoped. Instead, he took a much bigger gamble and it paid off, as the Yankees used another ninth-inning rally on Wednesday to top the Baltimore Orioles and take the lead in the American League Division Series. Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Rodriguez in the ninth and tied the game with a homer off Orioles closer Jim Johnson. Then Ibanez won it in the 12th with his second home run, this time off Brian Matusz, to give the Yankees a 3-2 victory. The wild win gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five ALDS and put them one victory from advancing to the American League Championship series. It also spoiled Orioles rookie starter Miguel Gonzalez's brilliant performance, in which he allowed just one run while striking out eight in seven innings. The Orioles had won 16 straight extra inning games before Wednesday, losing two all year before that, both to the Yankees. The Yankees will try to put away the Orioles on Thursday night, but might have to do so without Derek Jeter. The Yankees captain, who battled a bone bruise in his ankle in September and is known for playing through injuries, hobbled throughout the game Wednesday. Jeter, who drove in the Yankees' first run with a triple, exited after striking out in the eighth. Ibanez had hit huge home runs for the Yankees down the stretch, and Girardi said before the game "he's been a really big pinch-hitter for us, and I like having that." But despite Rodriguez's struggles and the calls to drop him from the third spot in the order, A-Rod is one of the greatest home run hitters of all time and a Hall-of-Fame-caliber talent. But with the righty Johnson on the mound and Rodriguez hearing boos throughout the night as he went 0-for-3 to make him 1-for-12 in the series, Girardi went to Ibanez. The 40-year-old veteran began to cool off in the second half, but came up with game-turning homers in the regular season's final month and change. He did it again Wednesday, drilling a 1-0 pitch from Johnson over the wall in right-center and the Yankees, two outs from a 2-1 deficit in the ALDS, were alive. Yankee Stadium, quiet for most of the night, as Gonzalez shut down the Yankees on five hits, roared. The fans would scream even louder for Ibanez three innings later when he drove the first pitch he saw from Matusz (0-1) over the wall in right for the game-winning homer. David Robertson (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win. The Orioles threatened in the top of the 10th inning as Robert Andino led off with a single against Yankees closer Rafael Soriano. But, after Manny Machado bunted Andino to second, Nate McLouth hit a liner to shortstop Jayson Nix, who doubled up Andino at second to end the inning. Thanks to a spectacular effort by Gonzalez and home runs from Machado and Ryan Flaherty, the surprising Orioles took a 2-1 lead into the ninth. Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda (0-1) was nearly as good as Gonzalez, giving up a third-inning homer to Flaherty and fifth-inning shot to Machado and little else in 8 1/3 innings. But Gonzalez mixed in a fastball with a devastating changeup to keep the Yankees off balance for most of the game. Darren O'Day then pitched a perfect eighth before turning it over to Johnson, who lost Game 1 and saved Game 2. Machado's first postseason home run led off the fifth inning and landed in the left-field bullpen, giving Baltimore a 2-1 lead. The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on Flaherty's homer to right, which landed a few rows in. The Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning, when Russell Martin doubled and Jeter hit his two-out triple over Adam Jones' glove, on a play that could haunt the Orioles' center fielder. The ball carried over the head of Jones, who was seen blowing a bubble while in pursuit, and just out of reach of his outstretched glove. Gonzalez got Ichiro Suzuki to fly out to center to end the inning. The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the fourth, but Kuroda retired Flaherty on a comebacker to end the inning. NOTES: Eric Chavez started at third base for the Yankees with Rodriguez moving to DH. Girardi pointed to Chavez being 3-for-6 with a home run against Orioles starter Gonzalez. ... Girardi announced before Game 3 that Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23 ERA) would start Game 4 regardless of Wednesday night's result. The manager opted not to pitch CC Sabathia or, possibly, Andy Pettitte on short rest. ... Before the game, Jeter declined to discuss Pete Rose's comments to Sports on Earth, in which baseball's all-time hit king said he didn't think Jeter could catch him. ... Injured Yankees closer Mariano Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch, with his entrance music "Enter Sandman" serving as his only introduction. ... Orioles manager Buck Showalter did not name a Game 4 starter before Game 3, saying it would be either left-hander Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63) or righty Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93). Jason Hammel will start Game 5, if necessary, Showalter said.
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