NEW YORK — Bullpen perfection disappeared for the Baltimore Orioles when it mattered most.
These exciting young Birds had been 76-0 this year when leading after seven innings, their relievers carrying them through the hot days of summer and the crisp nights of early fall.
They were two outs from taking control of their AL division series against the Yankees. Jim Johnson had converted a big league high 51 saves.
But then Raul Ibanez, pinch hitting for no less than Alex Rodriguez, turned on a 94 mph fastball with one out in the ninth inning to tie the score 2-all.
Two innings later, it was Ibanez again.
The 40-year-old homered off Brian Matusz leading off the 12th inning, giving the Yankees a 3-2 win Wednesday night and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Yankees have a long history of doing this.
There was Tino Martinez's tying, two-run homer off Arizona's Byung-Hyun Kim with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. There Scott Brosius' tying, two-run homer off Kim with two outs in the ninth the following night.
Rodriguez hit a tying, two-run homer off Minnesota's Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the 2009 AL division series, then hit a tying solo shot of the Los Angeles Angels' Brian Fuentes in the second game of that year's AL championship series.
All for naught was the great effort of Miguel Gonzalez, a 28-year-old rookie making his postseason debut. He allowed one run and five hits in seven innings with eight strikeouts and a walk, allowing his only run on Derek Jeter's RBI triple just out of reach of bubble-blowing center fielder Adam Jones in the third.
Baltimore's Nos. 8 and 9 hitters provided early power, with Ryan Flaherty sending a slider from Hiroki Kuroda over the right-field short porch in the third and Manny Machado putting another slider in the Baltimore bullpen leading off the fifth. Just 20, Machado became the second-youngest player with a postseason home run, behind only Atlanta's Andruw Jones who was 19 in 1996.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company