Raul Ibanez became the first player in Major League history to slug three home runs in the ninth inning or later in a single postseason when he hit a two-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning of the Yankees' 6-4 loss to the Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday.
Trailing, 4-0, entering the ninth, Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run homer to pull the Yanks within two, and after Robinson Cano struck out and Mark Teixeira walked, Ibanez stepped to the plate and delivered again. His two-run jack off Detroit closer Jose Valverde sent the game into extras, and though New York ultimately ended up on the losing end, it didn't diminish just how clutch Ibanez has been.
"I really don't think about it, I'm just trying to help the team win any way I can," said Ibanez, who also hit a pinch-hit, game-tying home run in the ninth inning in Game 3 of the AL Division Series and followed it up with the game-winning homer in the 12th vs. the Orioles.
"Guys had some great at-bats before that. Ichiro obviously hit the homer and Tex's at-bat was unbelievable, and Robby Cano had a long at-bat and fouled off a bunch of pitches," Ibanez said. "They deserve a lot of credit for that, too."
With his ninth-inning blast on Saturday, Ibanez joined Johnny Bench and teammate Alex Rodriguez as the only players to hit two game-tying postseason home runs in the ninth inning or later.
For his regular-season career, Ibanez has averaged one home run every 24.99 at-bats, and he was averaging one home run every 39 at-bats in his playoff career heading into this October before hitting three in a span of 10 at-bats. The postseason tear is the second chapter in Ibanez's storybook October. In the Yankees' penultimate game of the regular season on Oct. 2 against the Red Sox, Ibanez hit a game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning and then delivered a game-winning RBI single three innings later.
As for reflecting on the significance of his recent surge, Ibanez said his mind is a little bit preoccupied.
"Not right now, the only thing that matters is that we win games," Ibanez said. "That's the only thing that matters. It doesn't matter how we win them, but as long as we win them.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less