Raul Ibanez made MLB history on Wednesday night, hitting home runs in the ninth and 12th inning to help the Yankees beat the Orioles in Game Three of the ALDS. The win gives New York a 2-1 series lead, putting them one victory away from the ALCS.
Ibanez didn’t start the game, but pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez with the team down 2-1 and two outs remaining in the game. Joe Girardi made the call to put in the left-hander, after Rodriguez had another poor performance.
Prior to the contest, many fans had called for the Yankees manager to move the future Hall of Famer out of the third spot in the lineup. Others demanded that he be removed from the batting order, all together.
With Rodriguez’s struggles continuing and Ibanez’s clutch play, could Girardi bench the third baseman in Game Four against Baltimore?
Going 0-3 with two strikeouts, Rodriguez’s average in the series dropped to .083. Looking lost at the plate, Girardi felt taking him out would give the Yankees the best chance to make a comeback.
Girardi could have taken a lot of heat for taking out one of the greatest hitters of all time with the game on the line, if the move did not work. After sitting Rodriguez proved to be the right move in Game Three, Girardi could bench Rodriguez in Game Four, and avoid heavy criticism.
It hasn’t just been the three games in the playoffs that Rodriguez has struggled. Since returning from the DL, he has underperformed in the middle of New York’s lineup. He’s hit for no power of late, registering just one extra-base hit since Sept. 14. Coupled with his recent postseason failures, Rodriguez has shown no signs that he will be productive anytime soon.
If he chooses to sit Rodriguez, the Yankees manager has a few options, when filling out his lineup card.
Rodriguez got the start at designated hitter on Wednesday, with Eric Chavez starting at third. If Chavez gets the call at third again, Girardi can replace Rodriguez with anyone on his bench. Eduardo Nunez and Raul Ibanez would be the top two candidates to get that spot.
Despite his recent struggles, there’s a good chance Rodriguez will still be at the top of the Yankees order on Thursday night. Benching him for one at bat is much different from making him sit for an entire game.
Joe Saunders takes the mound for Baltimore, and Rodriguez has hit him very well in the past. He’s 7-16 off the lefty, with two home runs and five RBI. If Girardi wants to help his slugger get back on track, his best chance may come against Saunders.
Not only could Rodriguez get the start, but Ibanez might not even play. Because the Orioles are starting a left-hander, Girardi might want to save him for a pinch-hitting role against a right-handed reliever.
The Yankees lineup will be released a few hours before the first pitch of Game Four, which is set for 7:37 p.m. ET in the Bronx.