Raul Ibanez is, quite clearly, some kinda sorcerer.
The 40-year-old magic man just swatted a game-tying two-run homer to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning, pushing this ALCS Game 1 against the Tigers into extra innings. The Yankees were down four runs when the frame began but had little trouble tracking Jose Valverde’s lifeless deliveries and charged back to keep hope alive. Ichiro Suzuki got the scoring started, also contributing a two-run blast.
Ibanez, who played the hero with two clutch bombs in last week’s ALDS Game 3 defeat of the Orioles, is now 6-for-13 (.462) this postseason.
He batted just .240 with a .308 on-base percentage in 425 plate appearances this summer.
Kyle Seager had the worst year of his big league career in 2018. He hit .221/.273/.400 (86 OPS+) and saw his home run total decline for the second straight year. In response, Seager has reported back to camp in Peoria . . . in the best shape of his life.
This story about it in the Seattle Times has it all: the poor production and nagging injuries that led to a change of habits in the offseason. A new diet, new exercise routines, a focus on flexibility, the epiphany that an injury was the result of conditioning and, as the payoff, the scene on the first day of workouts when his uniform was too baggy and he had to get a new one.
The proof, of course, will not come from the eating, but in the production.