Raul Ibanez homers again, this time a walkoff, as Yankees win Game 3 of ALDS against O’s

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Raul Ibanez is your latest Yankees playoff hero.

The 40-year-old hit a pinch-hit game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the ninth inning, then launched another solo homer in the bottom of the 12th as New York rallied back to defeat Baltimore by a score of 3-2 in Game 3 of the ALDS on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The Bombers now lead the series 2-1.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to come up like that,” Ibanez told Craig Sager of TBS in a quick postgame interview. “I’m a blessed man. I’m a blessed man. I get to play for the Yankees.”

The heroics from Ibanez spoiled a superb start by Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who allowed just one run on five hits over seven impressive innings while fanning eight and issuing no walks. It was his third straight dominant outing in The Bronx.

Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda was impressive in his own right, going 8 1/3 frames before being lifted for Boone Logan in the top of the ninth. The New York bullpen would shut out the O’s the rest of the way.

Game 4 will be played on Thursday. It’ll be Orioles lefty Joe Saunders vs. Yankees righty Phil Hughes.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.