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Ibanez hits for A-Rod, homers twice in Yankees win

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Ibanez hits for A-Rod, homers twice in Yankees win

NEW YORK (AP) Down by a run in an all-even AL division series, Joe Girardi approached Alex Rodriguez and told baseball's highest-paid player he was going to pinch hit for him.

Bold move, benching one of the game's great sluggers.

``I just had a gut feeling,'' the Yankees manager said. ``I just went to him and I said, `You're scuffling a little bit right now, we have got a low-ball hitter and we've got a shorter porch in right field then left field obviously - Raul (Ibanez) has been a good pinch hitter for us, and I'm just going to take a shot.'''

The audacious decision worked.

Ibanez homered in the ninth, then again in the 12th, rallying New York to a stunning 3-2 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series.

The slumping Rodriguez offered no complaint, telling Girardi: ``Joe, you gotta do exactly what you gotta do.''

Injured saves leader Mariano Rivera went to Rodriguez in the dugout after seeing Ibanez head for the on-deck circle.

``I told Alex not to worry, that Raul was going to hit a home run,'' Rivera said.

And Rivera was right next to A-Rod when Ibanez lined Jim Johnson's 1-0 pitch into the right field stands. Rodriguez threw his arms into the air and then exchanged high-fives with Rivera. When Ibanez returned to the bench, Rodriguez was the first player to greet him.

``There was no one happier than me, one of the best performances I have ever seen,'' Rodriguez said.

Yankees fans had been howling this week for Girardi to drop Rodriguez out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. But Girardi was reluctant to move his fading slugger down in the lineup.

Until he took him all the way out.

``You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. I just had a gut feeling,'' Girardi said.

Rodriguez has 647 career home runs - he's chasing the record of 762 by Barry Bonds - and is making $29 million this year. But was just 1 for 12 with no RBIs and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.

``It kind of caught me off-guard, hitting for a guy who's half-a-billionaire,'' Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said.

It was the first time Rodriguez had ever been pinch hit for in a postseason game, according to STATS LLC.

``Sometimes you've got to do what your gut tells you, and my gut told me to make the move,'' Girardi said. ``I still have the utmost respect for Al and I still think he's a great player, he's just going through a little tough time right now.''

Ibanez remained in the game and connected on the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the 12th. He became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn't start, STATS said.

Phil Hughes will try to clinch it for the Yankees on Thursday night in Game 4. Joe Saunders will start for Baltimore.

The Orioles had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and had been 76-0 when leading after seven, before the Yankees stung them.

``It was a great experience. We do it as a team. We stay after it,'' Ibanez said. ``I'm blessed to come up and have the opportunity like that. We do it together. It's about a team and about winning.''

The brash, young Orioles appeared poised to move within a win of their first trip to the AL championship series since 1997 before the Yankees' comeback.

Ibanez hit a 1-0 pitch into the seats in the ninth, setting off a raucous celebration in what had been a demoralized Yankee Stadium crowd.

Ibanez at first didn't know who he was hitting for and was a bit startled when Eduardo Nunez told him.

``Alex is one of the best hitters of all time, and he still is,'' Ibanez said. ``I mean, he's one of the greatest players in the history of the game. So for a minute I just thought something was going on, I didn't know what was happening, and then I just tried to put it behind me and get a good pitch to hit.''

After their 10-game July lead was cut to zero in early September, the Yankees repelled every Orioles charge. The teams were tied 10 times in the final month but New York ended up atop the division.

New York won the opener in Baltimore by scoring five runs in the ninth off Johnson, who had 51 saves in the regular season. The Orioles won Game 2 and rode Miguel Gonzalez's pretty performance to a 2-1 lead in the ninth.

``Jimmy is a big-hearted, talented guy that believe me, we'd be at home watching without people like Jim Johnson,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ``He's a special guy. We're real proud of him, and you'll see him again tomorrow night, I hope.''

The Yankees limited Baltimore to one hit after 20-year-old Manny Machado homered in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty homered earlier for the Orioles.

Robert Andino was doubled off second after leading off the Baltimore ninth with a single and advancing on a sacrifice.

Boone Logan got one out in relief of Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up two solo homers in 8 1-3 innings. Closer Rafael Soriano pitched 1 1-3 innings and David Robertson went two, finishing off his outing by bumping into and tagging Andino to end the top of the 12th.

Derek Jeter tied the score with an RBI triple in the third for the Yankees. Jeter, limping after fouling a ball off his foot, came out after eight innings. He says we will be able to play Thursday.

Girardi will wait and see.

``Well, we've seen what he's been able to do in his career and how he's been able to come back,'' Girardi said. ``Just got to keep our fingers crossed.''

NOTES: Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... Flaherty and Machado are first pair of rookie teammates to homer in the same postseason game. At 20 years, 96 days, Machado is the second-youngest player to homer in the postseason behind Yankees OF-DH Andruw Jones, according to STATS. He did it in 1996 for Atlanta, when he was 19 years, 177 days.

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm