Down by a run in the top of the ninth inning, with two out, and base runners on first and second, left-handed batter Raul Ibanez was due up for the New York Yankees. Waiting on the pitching mound for Ibanez was left-handed pitcher Phil Coke of the Detroit Tigers. In the history of baseball, this specific pitcher-batter match up had occurred four times previously, with Coke getting the upper hand in all but one occasion, which was a home run in 2009.
During the first two games of this American League Championship Series, these two player faced each other twice. The first occasion resulted in a ground out; the second, a strike out. At the time, both of these plate appearances were thought to be high leverage situations, but they pale in comparison to Tuesday night’s confrontation which would only be slightly hyperbolic to suggest was the most important at-bat of the Yankees season. The outcome of the Coke vs. Ibanez battle would decide the difference between a likely insurmountable 3-0 ALCS lead for the Tigers, and a tight 2-1 ALCS deficit for the Yankees.