Hey guys, remember this?
That was the last game Raul Ibanez played in as a Phillie.
Game 5. NLDS. Phils-Cardinals.
So close. Yet, so far.
So it was with mixed emotions that Phils fans watched the now-Yankees back-up outfielder hit not only a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie Game 3 of the ALDS against the Orioles, but also the game-winning dinger in the bottom of the 12th.
Frankly, if you didn’t get goosebumps watching that, you’re emotionally dead inside.
Unless you’re an Orioles fan. Then, last night probably killed you anyway.
Of course, the big storyline from last night’s game isn’t that Phillies fans wish Ibanez had done against Chris Carpenter last year what he did last night against the O’s.
The big story is that Ibanez was brought to the plate in the ninth as a pinch hitter for the struggling Alex Rodriguez, a move that could have been hugely controversial had Ibanez not come through.
But Ibanez came through, unlike last year against the Cardinals.
Yeah, I’m still holding onto that bitterness a bit.
But there’s no way to get mad at Ibanez. It’s too good a story. Ibanez’ performance was one for the ages. And after the game, Raul seemed to appreciate the moment.
“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.”
By all accounts, there are few guys in baseball who are nicer and friendlier than Raul Ibanez. He’s one of the good guys, and deserving of this moment, especially when you think about his career arc.
All of his Major League success was late in coming. He didn’t become a starting player and productive run producer until he was in his early 30s.
He’s the very definition of a late bloomer. So it would only make sense that his heroics would come so late in Wednesday night’s Game 3.
If you’re a Baltimore fan, however, last night’s loss is a punch to the gut. Everyone knew the Orioles had made it into the playoffs with a little bit of smoke and mirrors, but still, Ibanez’ heroics had to hurt.
Heading into Game 3, the O’s had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and were 76-0 this year when leading after seven innings. Those are numbers that are simply unsustainable.
Still, the fact that it was Raul Ibanez who ended those streaks had to be a shock.
At 40 years old, he was used mostly as a fourth outfielder for the Yanks this year, but still managed to hit 19 HRs in 130 games and 425 plate appearances, posting a slash line of .240/.308/.453. He’s earning just over a million dollars this year on a one-year deal.
Alex Rodriguez, by the way, earned $29 million this year, and is still owed $114 million through the year 2017.
Kinda puts the Ryan Howard contract in a bit better light, no?
So, even though it was the Yankees, every Phils fan watching last night’s ballgame had to feel good about the outcome.
Raul Ibanez, for one more night at least, got a chance to be the hero.
And this time, he delivered.