Raul Ibanez muttered the same phrase ad nauseum the last time he was at Citizens Bank Park,"Just three milimeters, just three milimeters,” Ibanez said after the Phillies lost game five of the National League Championship series in 2011 to the St. Louis Cardinals. Ibanez’ metric reference was about how close he was to drilling a ball off the sweet spot of his bat for a three- run homer and possibly advancing to the next round.
“I’ll never forget that,” Ibanez said. “I just missed hitting the ball out. If I managed to hit that home run, I think we move on since Doc (Roy Halladay) was lights out (after giving up a first inning run)."
It was one of the most painful losses in Philadelphia’s postseason history. That Phillies team, which set a franchise record with 102 wins, was not expected to exit early from the playoffs.
“I thought we had a great chance to win the World Series that year,” Ibanez said. “But it didn’t happen. We made it to the World Series in 2009 but that didn’t work out.”
Ibanez, who will turn 42 in June, is hoping to earn his first World Series ring with the Los Angeles Angels, which is led by South Jersey phenom Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who helped the Cardinals beat the Phillies in 2011.
“It would be the greatest if the Phillies and the Angels were in the World Series this year,” Ibanez said.
It’s no secret that Ibanez loved his three seasons in Philly.
“Playing in front of the Phillies fans and in this park was very, very special to me,” Ibanez said. “There are no fans like Philadelphia sports fans. If you grow up here, you’re a diehard Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers fan. I’ve never been to a city like Philadelphia. I have so many great memories from playing here. I just wish we could have won that World Series against the Yankees in 2009. I remember what it was like in the dugout in New York when they Yankees won game six and the World Series. It really hurt.”
Ibanez drilled 19 homers for the Bronx Bombers in 2012 plus a pair of dramatic dingers in the playoffs.
“New York was amazing,” Ibanez said. “Some people thought I was finished when I left Philadelphia but I still had something left.”
Indeed. Ibanez has hit 44 homers and driven in 151 runs since leaving the Phillies. However, Ibanez is hitting just .147 this season and rumors abound that he might not be long for the Angels. “I haven’t hit for average but I’ve been productive,” Ibanez said.
Ibanez has hit three homers and driven in 19, which nearly mirrors Utley’s numbers, in 2014. Ibanez, who started in left and hit cleanup in the finale of the two game series with Los Angeles, drove in a run with a single and walked twice.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Ibanez said. “As long as I’m able, I’ll play as long as I can. I love what I do.”