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YORK -- Raul Ibanez's short-lived heroics would not have been necessary Saturday if the Yankees had avoided joining unwanted company earlier in their 6-4, 12-inning loss to the Tigers to open the American League Championship Series. The Yankees became just the third team in playoff history to load the bases at least three times and strand the runners there each time.
The Braves did it each of the previous two times -- once in 1998, and once when they represented Milwaukee in the 1957 World Series against the Yankees. They lost the 1998 National League Championship Series to the Padres after stranding the bases loaded three times in Game 3, but they beat the Yankees for the title in 1957, when they left the bases loaded four times in another Game 3 loss.
These Yankees left three runners on base in the first, second and sixth innings, with Tigers starter Doug Fister escaping the jam every time, twice with help at shortstop from Jhonny Peralta.
"That kept our momentum going," Fister said.
Alex Rodriguez did his part in the first inning, ripping a ground ball to the left side only to have Peralta rob him with a backhanded dive. Peralta's throw beat Ibanez to second base for a forceout.
Peralta again rescued Fister an inning later, when Robinson Cano sent a ground ball up the middle and off Fister's wrist before it bounced to Detroit's charging shortstop. Again, his throw barely beat the runner -- this time Cano at first -- to the bag.
"Fister is skinny and I am still trying to figure out how the ball hit him," said manager Joe Girardi. "There are other pitchers I can understand that it hits the guy up the middle, but not this guy. We had some bad breaks."
But the Yankees' missed opportunity in the sixth inning was nothing of the sort.
Rodriguez struck out on three pitches with two on and no outs before Nick Swisher walked to load the bases. New York only needed a sacrifice fly to put a run on the board, but Curtis Granderson struck out on three pitches and Russell Martin struck out on four.
It marked the fourth time in the past two postseasons that Fister escaped a bases-loaded jam against New York. He did the same thing in Game 5 of the ALDS a year ago, inducing pop-ups from Martin and Brett Gardner, and the Tigers would eventually end the Yankees' season.
The Yankees became the first team to escape three bases-loaded jams 55 years ago, with Don Larsen pitching in relief to escape all of them -- twice against Hank Aaron. Now, however, they are the third to walk away empty handed with that much opportunity.