A-Rod still silent, but Yankees making noiseAlex Rodriguez still stuck at 499, but Yanks are moving on up
Yankees fans have been on the edge of their seat awaiting Rodriguez's 500th career home run for exactly a week now. But given the way A-Rod's been swinging, fans looking to celebrate the milestone may want to consider sitting back and relaxing. What's more perplexing about A-Rod going homerless is the fact that his teammates can't seem to keep the ball in the park.
"The guys are picking me up," said Rodriguez, who felt he swung the bat better than he did Tuesday night. "But you kind of want to join the parade here."
"He just needs to get a hit," said Jorge Posada. "After he gets a hit, obviously he's going to do it. Trying to hit a home run, that's probably the toughest thing to do."
After slugging eight home runs off the White Sox in Tuesday night's 16-3 romping at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees picked up where they left off on Wednesday, hitting five homers two from Posada, his first multi-homer game of the season and third in two games and one each from Shelley Duncan, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter, resulting in a 8-1 win. The Yankees have hit 13 home runs the past two nights, tying a franchise record from a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics on June 28, 1939.
"We have some pretty good hitters that are doing these things," said Joe Torre. "(Hideki) Matsui is in a good go right now and Jorgie's had couple home runs in the past couple of days, and Robbie's been hot the whole month of July. Jeter's the one that's been cool."
Still, with the entire team on a hitting and home run barrage the spotlight is on A-Rod. Before the start of Wednesday night's game against the White Sox, Rodriguez joked that he needed a good luck charm. He appeared to be more relaxed than ever during batting practice, but looks can often be deceiving. Notorious for over-thinking his actions on the field, Rodriguez is clearly not in the right frame of mind. And we have the numbers to prove it.
Since taking sole possession of 22nd place on baseball's all-time list on July 25 when he hit home run No. 499, A-Rod is 0-for-20, technically 0-for-21 if you count the makeup rainout game in Baltimore on July 27, with one RBI and six walks. These aren't exactly the numbers of somebody with an impressive 35 home runs and 103 RBIs printed aside his name. In fact, these notable statistics have also put Rodriguez beside Babe Ruth as the only player in baseball history with 35 home runs and 100 RBIs in 11 separate seasons.
Regardless, the home run is inevitable and so is the fact that when No. 500 goes over the fence, Rodriguez will become the youngest player (32) to reach such a mark. The last four players to hit 500 home runs reached that milestone on the road. Rodriguez, who's been embraced by the same fans who booed him throughout all of last season, would like to break that streak and do it on his home field in the Bronx.
"It's just the way it goes," Rodriguez said. "You can't really sweat it too much. You have to get back to playing a little baseball and not thinking about 500."
"You know he's trying to get this thing over with," Torre said. "We'd all like to see it happen, but I don't care if it takes three or four weeks. He just needs to play baseball. That's all. I think the fact that it's going to happen, if it doesn't happen tomorrow it's the next day or the next day.
"He's had a great year so far and that's what he has to continue to do."
The abundance of flashbulbs stemming from the stands is also something the third baseman has noticed.
"It's hard to ignore," Rodriguez said. "There's so many of them. But it's not a distraction. They've been going on since Kansas City, so I've gotten used to that. It's a festive atmosphere every time I go up to the plate but it's been a little more challenging because every time I go to the plate we're winning by five or six or even 10 and I kind of get lost at the plate a little bit. I feel like I do too much."
With Boston's victory over Baltimore, the Yankees, winners of three straight and nine of their last 12, didn't gain a game in the East standings but they're certainly giving the Red Sox something to fear. They did, however, move one step closer to the Wild Card when Cleveland's loss over Texas placed them just two games back. For a team once faced with an abundance of injuries and sitting 14 games out of first place in the division, the Yankees have improved in every aspect of the game and can only get better with pitchers Phil Hughes and Jeff Karstens ready to make their return. Not to mention, Jason Giambi and Doug Mientkiewicz are chomping at the bit to return to the plate as well.
Bottom line: things are finally looking up for the Yankees. And these would all be big stories in Yankeeland if only Alex Rodriguez would hit his 500th home run.
"It would be a lot worse if we weren't winning games," said Rodriguez. "I'll hit it some time before the year ends."