For much of spring training, Raul Ibanez hit like a man his age, which is to say, not very well. Joe Girardi conducted some recon with Ibanez’s old coaches, who said the veteran outfield simply needed time to hone his timing.
Girardi’s patience — and Ibanez’s short memory — were rewarded again Friday night. He lashed a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth off Felix Hernandez to help the Yankees overcome a possible indignity. Former farmhand Jesus Montero had swatted the go-ahead solo shot in the top half of the inning.
Ibanez probably remembered that. Just don’t ask him about spring training.
“It works out well sometimes, but my wife hates my short memory and I really do have a short memory,” said Ibanez, whose two-out homer gave the Yanks a 4-2 lead in a game they went on to win 6-2. “I don’t remember what happened and it works out a lot of times. I don’t even remember that far back.”
Ibanez now has six home runs, four of which he’s tagged in the sixth inning or later. Three of the six have also giving the Yankees the lead, including, of course, tonight’s.
Here’s more from Ibanez…
• Hiroki Kuroda proved to be somewhat of an afterthought tonight, but he pitched well, scattering six hits and allowed just two solo homers in seven innings. He improved to 3-4 and now has a respectable 3.54 ERA.
Kuroda’s only blemish after his first batter came against Montero on a 2-2 slider the right-hander wanted to throw where he threw it.
“It was really shocking,” Kuroda said. “I chose that pitch because I thought it was a great pitch for him not to hit a home run.”
• The reaction to Montero was muted — neither positive or negative. The Yankees stole one base against him, but it came without virtue of a throw after a ball in the dirt. He finished 1 for 4 at the plate and grounded out in the three at-bats other than his impressive homer.
• What can you say about Robinson Cano? He’s 12 for 20 for 8 RBI and five extra-base hits in his last five games. He’s on a nine-game hitting streak that has seen him bat .444 and lift his average to .308.
Cano downplayed his hot streak, and, to a lesser extent, so did Girardi. The only difference he sees? “I see a lot of hits.”
No surprise, but the heart of the Yankee order might find itself surfacing along with Cano. The 3-4-5 went 8 for 11 tonight, mostly against Hernandez.
• Cano didn’t offer much in the way of quotes on himself. But he said this of Ibanez:
“That guy, he can rake,” Cano said. “Any time he hits the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit a home run.”
• The Yankees beat Hernandez for the first time in four starts in this park. The ace had been 3-0 with a 0.38 ERA in his three previous starts here.
Of course, that hasn’t been because of Cano. He’s 14 for 34 (.412) career, the fourth-highest among batters with 30 or more at-bats against Hernandez.
• Derek Jeter recorded his 1,006th career walk, surpassing Willie Randolph for fifth on the club’s all-time list. It’s fine print in a career like Jeter’s, but the walk proved pivotal. He worked a 10-pitch free pass in the fifth that began to push Hernandez’s pitch count after a breezy start. The Yankees stranded him, but they had finally had success in the sixth.
“Maybe Jeeet’s at-bat was the start of something,” Girardi said.
• Girardi had no worries about David Robertson after Wednesday’s blown save. The right-hander recorded the final two outs with a runner on in a non-save situation. “I’m not too concerned about Robbie,” Girardi said. “I have a lot of belief in him. But I think any time a player goes through something like that, something that he hasn’t really experienced before. I think it’s important for him to get back out there.”
Here’s the rest of what Girardi said tonight…