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Ibanez Hero For Yanks In Walk-Off Fashion

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Raul Ibanez #27 of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a walk off home run in the bottom of the twelfth inning to defeat 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)

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 10: Raul Ibanez #27 of the New York Yankees reacts after hitting a walk off home run in the bottom of the twelfth inning to defeat 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)

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By HOWIE RUMBERG
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Raul Ibanez lined a tying home run while pinch
hitting for slumping Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning, then hit a
leadoff homer in the 12th, giving 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 with one out in the ninth inning off major league
saves leader Jim Johnson to make it 2-all. 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 just 1 for 12 with no RBIs
and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.

“He said, `Do what you got to do,”’ Girardi said, recalled
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.

NOTES: Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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