After one of the more memorable postseason wins in their remarkable postseason history, the New York Yankees try to secure a spot in the American League Championship Series and knock the Baltimore Orioles out of the ALDS in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.
On Wednesday, Raul Ibanez, pinch-hitting for a struggling Alex Rodriguez in the ninth, tied the game with a solo homer off Jim Johnson and three innings later, sent a Brian Matusz offering into the second deck in right field to give New York a wild 3-2 victory.
The dramatic turnaround gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in this series after the clubs split a pair in Baltimore. The Orioles had won an unfathomable 16 straight extra-inning games and had not suffered a walk-off loss all season.
Now, they are on the brink of elimination.
"One pitch, that's the world we live in," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Baltimore was 29-9 in one-run games during the regular season and eked out a 3-2 win to even the series on Monday. Another close victory was two outs away when Rodriguez's spot in the order came up in the ninth.
Rodriguez, 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the series, did not make it out of the dugout.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi inserted the veteran Ibanez, who had 19 of New York's franchise-record 245 home runs in the regular season. Johnson, the losing pitcher in Game 1, grooved a fastball and Ibanez sent it to the seats.
"I just had a gut feeling," Girardi said on his decision to pinch-hit Ibanez. "You've got a left-handed hitter who's a low ball hitter in a sense and you've got a low ball pitcher. I just kind of had a gut feeling."
Matusz (0-1) also caught too much of the plate with his first pitch in the 12th, and Ibanez hammered it into the second deck to put an exclamation point on his heroic night.
"I don't even remember what happened. It was kind of a blur," Ibanez admitted. "I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit."
It was the first time in MLB history a player hit two homers in a postseason game with both coming in the ninth inning or later.
David Robertson (1-0) hurled two innings of relief to earn the win, allowing only one hit when he and Mark Teixeira failed to communicate on a pop up.
Derek Jeter went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple, but exited in the ninth inning with a bone bruise he suffered when he fouled a pitch off his left foot early in the game. Girardi listed the future Hall-of-Fame shortstop as day-to-day.
Now, the Yankees try to nail down their first ALCS berth since losing to the Texas Rangers in 2010 behind right-hander Phil Hughes, who was 16-13 this past season with a 4.23 ERA.
Hughes has more wins (six) versus Baltimore than he does against any other team. He also has lost just twice in his past 10 starts versus the Orioles and surrendered three runs or less in seven of those outings.
"It's a great opportunity," said Hughes, who last pitched on Sept. 30 against the Blue Jays. "Last year was a disappointing season, and the year before that, pitching a good game against Minnesota and not then pitching at all against Texas. I've been looking forward to this, and it's going to be exciting. It's going to be a good atmosphere here and something I really look forward to."
Baltimore, meanwhile, will rely on lefty Joe Saunders, who defeated Texas in its one-game wild card on Friday. Saunders gave up just a run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings of that one.
"No one really gave me a chance, and I wanted to go out there and prove people wrong," Saunders said.
Saunders was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for the Orioles after being acquired from Arizona.
"Joe is a guy that gives you a chance to win, and he'll compete, and he knows we feel good with him out there," said Showalter, who chose Saunders to start over Chris Tillman.
The Orioles and Yankees are certainly no strangers to one another and in addition to splitting 18 regular season meetings this season, these teams also met in the 1996 ALCS, a series won by New York, but one that was made famous by the Jeffrey Maier catch.
New York won that series in five games.