For eight and a half innings, it looked like Joe Girardi was going to get skewered in Thursday's dailies for refusing to move Alex Rodriguez from the third spot in the batting order.
They play nine innings, though, and that extra half inning changed everything for Girardi, A-Rod and the Yankees. With one out in the ninth inning of a 2-1 game, Girardi pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for Rodriguez in a move that seemed to be playing to the columnists (shades of Joe Torre dropping Rodriguez to the eighth spot in 2006) as much as it was about pulling a struggling player.
Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but more than that, he was the scapegoat for a team full of underachievers who had produced nothing against Miguel Gonzalez's trickery on Wednesday night. Yanking him satisfied the bloodlust, but it didn't really seem like there was much more to it than that.
Somebody up there liked the move, though, because Ibanez connected for a home run off of Orioles closer Jim Johnson -- who allowed three homers in 71 regular season games and has now allowed two in three postseason games -- and lit up a dead stadium crowd like a firecracker.
And then Ibanez did it again. In the bottom of the 12th, Ibanez connected off of lefty Brian Matusz to end the game and give the Yankees an improbable, unforgettable 3-2 win.
Ibanez had a 492 OPS against lefties this season, which mattered about as much as what you had for breakfast because the story of this game was obviously being written by larger forces. Girardi broke the glass in case of emergency and pulled out a pot of gold.
That will certainly play with the columnists, although now they'll be writing about Girardi's guts and unwillingness to let ego or emotion dictate things. That's confusing process for outcome, but, honestly, do the facts even matter anymore when the legend is this good?
Only A-Rod would become the only player blamed for an offensive brownout that covered every player on the roster other than Derek Jeter, who left early with an injury, and only A-Rod could get pulled for a player who then wound up getting the hit everyone had been waiting to see.
In the most flamboyant way possible, Girardi just announced to the world that A-Rod is now just another guy in the lineup and that will dramatically change the way the rest of his career plays out. He'll still play, the contract demands that, but there won't be any hemming and hawing about where he hits or when he plays.
And, the dirty little secret of all this, is that none of it matters if a few more Yankees don't show up and start hitting when things pick up on Thursday. It's all great drama, but there's still a series to win.