The man criticized by some for making too many moves and by others for not making enough, made the boldest managerial move in Yankee history last night.

Because Joe Girardi had the onions to pinch hit Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 in the ALDS against the Orioles, the Yankees are nine innings away from advancing to the ALCS.

The left-handed hitting Ibanez not only homered off gas-throwing Jim Johnson to tie score in the ninth, he repeated the heroic act three innings later against lefty Brian Matusz and lifted the Yankees to a pulsating 3-2, 12-inning victory that sent the sold-out crowd of 50,497 into a frenzy.

"Alex is one of the greatest players in the history of the game so for a minute I just thought something was going on,'' said the 40-year-old Ibanez, who required three pitches to hit two homers and elbow his way into Yankees' lore. "I didn't know what was happening. Then I tried to put it behind me and get a good pitch to hit.''

A decade ago, Rodriguez admitted, he would have reacted differently about being hit for. But not last night.