Ibanez grand slam in eighth gives Yankees win
As the Yankees loaded the bases in the eighth inning, the crowd at Yankee Stadium was on its feet making the type noise that might be saved for October.
They had to wait through a lengthy at-bat by Nick Swisher that ended in a strikeout on a hanging breaking ball, but the wait was not much longer.
Five pitches later, Raul Ibanez had his biggest hit as a Yankee. He slugged a grand slam off Jason Frasor to give the Yankees a 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays Monday night. Rafael Soriano allowed an inherited run to score in the ninth, but got the save.
Frasor had gotten away with a bad pitch when Swisher stared at his hanging breaking ball.
He was not as fortunate moments later when Ibanez clubbed a 3-1 fastball into the right field seats. It was Ibanez’s 10th career grand slam and sent the crowd into frenzied chants of “Raul, Raul, Raul” as they headed to the exits to beat the traffic.
“We expected him to play well,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve always liked him as a hitter, but he’s come up with some huge hits.”
“I was in [the clubhouse],” Phil Hughes said. “I figured he’d be taking 3-1, bases loaded. But he thought otherwise. That was pretty exciting.”
Ibanez chuckled when told of Hughes’s comment, especially since swinging at the pitch resulted in his first grand slam since Sept. 17 against the Cardinals when he was with Philadelphia.
“I’m definitely not taking,” Ibanez said. “I’m not looking to take right there in that count. At the same time you don’t try to do too much either. So no, not taking.”
It was the Yankees’ sixth grand slam this season, which is remarkable considering they came into the game with a .186 average with the bases full. Ibanez came into the plate appearance hitless in his last 11 at-bats in that situation, which had dropped his lifetime mark to .328.
“To be honest with you, in most cases, I’ve been pretty good with the bases loaded and this year not so good,” Ibanez said. “So it was nice to help the team.”
Ibanez also became the first Yankee to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning or later since Bobby Abreu in the 10th inning on Sept. 24, 2008 in Toronto.
“It works the opposite,” Ibanez said. “If you allow yourself to think grand slam, you hit a ground ball and it doesn’t happen. I was just trying to hit a line drive, not trying to do too much.”
Before Ibanez’s grand slam, the Yankees loaded the bases on one-out singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and before Mark Teixeira was hit on the foot.
The Yankees also nearly entered their turn in the eighth facing a one-run deficit. That would have been the case if Jose Bautista had sent David Robertson’s 93 mph fastball a few inches to the right of the foul pole in left field in the top of the frame.
Instead, it stayed a few inches in foul territory. It turned out to be a minor problem as Bautista injured his left wrist on the violent swing. He left the game after being hunched over writhing in pain for a few minutes.
The Blue Jays said after the game that Bautista did not break his wrist, but instead injured the tendon and will undergo an MRI Tuesday to determine the extent.
Before the dramatics in the eighth, the game was highlighted by respectable efforts from both starting pitchers.
Henderson Alvarez settled down after allowing seven base runners in the opening three innings and falling behind 2-0 on Russell Martin’s solo home run in the second and Robinson Cano’s RBI double in the third.
Phil Hughes allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings. Those hits included Edwin Encarnacion’s solo home run in the sixth, which made Hughes the sixth AL pitcher to allow at least 20 home runs this year.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.