A-Rod is an October lightning rod.
With every swing and miss, memories of his amazing run during the New York Yankees ' championship season in 2009 fade even further. Instead, fans are becoming more and more vocal, calling for manager Joe Girardi to drop him from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.
Rodriguez struck out to end the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in Game 2 of their division series Monday night, leaving the best-of-five matchup tied at 1.
He's fanned plenty of times - five in all while going 1 for 9 so far in the series."I feel fine at the plate," Rodriguez said after the loss. "I've just got to finish at-bats. I'm getting good swings."
He'll have the chance to turn things around Wednesday night when the series shifts to the Bronx for Game 3. Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) starts for New York against Miguel Gonzalez (9-4), a rookie right-hander who has 17 strikeouts in 13 2-3 innings against the Yankees in two starts.
After their train experienced an electrical outage after the loss Monday and turned a usual 2-hour, 15-minute trip to New York into a 5-hour journey, manager Joe Girardi was reluctant to address the Yankees' more pressing power problem Tuesday."I think that we're going to do whatever it takes to win this three-game series. Nothing that we do will be something that is just a knee-jerk reaction," Girardi said. "The great thing about this is I have a great group of guys that's very unselfish, and they really want to win. And that's what we're going to do, what we think is best to win."
Always protective of his players, Girardi might be choosing to coddle Rodriguez after watching Joe Torre cause a stir in 2006 by dropping the 14-time All-Star to eighth in the Yankees order against the Detroit Tigers in the first round."Sometimes it's just not as easy as just writing a name or taking a guy out, a pitcher out. You have to think about the emotional part," Girardi said. "You always have to think about that as a manager."
A big fan of the numbers, all collated in his ever-present binder, Girardi need not look too deep to see that the 37-year-old Rodriguez is not the same player that has amassed 647 homers, fewer than only Willie Mays , Babe Ruth , Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds .
The third baseman hit only 18 home runs and had a .430 slugging percentage while driving in just 57 runs in 122 games this season, exclusively batting third or fourth for the team that scored the second most runs in the majors with 804.
Rodriguez went a startling 67 at-bats in September without an extra-base hit shortly after returning from a broken left hand. Robinson Cano , who had an RBI double Monday, had nine straight multihit games to finish the season, hitting .615 over that stretch, and many fans want to see him hit in the No. 3 slot.
Granted, Rodriguez is not the only player that's nearly Oh-for-October. Baltimore's Adam Jones is 1 for 8, Washington's Bryce Harper is 1 for 10 and Detroit's Prince Fielder is 1 for 8, but the Tigers are up 2-0.
But none of those stars have as much history as the three-time MVP, either. The highest-paid player in baseball with a contract that can exceed $300 million and has five years remaining, A-list girlfriends, a gossip page fixture.
Ending the Yankees' last two trips to the playoffs with whiffs doesn't help - Game 6 in 2010 ALCS with a caught looking and a swinging strike three against the Tigers last year in the first round. He also hasn't homered in the postseason since hitting six in 2009, but he's fanned 17 times.
Overall, Rodriguez is a career .271 hitter in the postseason with 13 homers and 41 RBIs since making his first playoff appearance in 1995 with Seattle. He is a career .300 hitter in the regular season with 1,950 RBIs.
But Girardi insisted he likes what he sees from Rodriguez. He hit a sharp liner that Baltimore second baseman Robert Andino stopped with a dive and singled before striking out twice as the Yankees tried to rally."He squared up two balls," Girardi said. "You look at the ball he hit in the first inning, he squared it up. And then he had the other hard single. Right now I don't have any plans to make any changes."
Rodriguez isn't the only one struggling for the Yankees against the Orioles solid pitching staff. New York went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 in Monday's loss.
|September 29, 2012||Oliver Drake||60-Day DL||Right shoulder tendinitis|
|September 23, 2012||Randy Wolf||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, left elbow - out for season|
|September 11, 2012||Jason Hammel||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee injury|
|September 09, 2012||Nick Markakis||Day-to-Day||Broken left thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Chris Tillman||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff right elbow|
|August 22, 2012||Matt Wieters||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder contusion|
|New York Yankees|
|September 19, 2012||Dellin Betances||60-Day DL||Right shoulder injury|
|September 19, 2012||Dellin Betances||60-Day DL||Right shoulder injury|
|September 09, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|September 02, 2012||Curtis Granderson||Day-to-Day||Right hamstring tendinitis|
|August 27, 2012||Mark Teixeira||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 22, 2012||Ivan Nova||15-Day DL||Right shoulder tightness|
NEW YORK (AP) -- The highest-paid player in baseball could only sit and watch when Raul Ibanez pinch hit for him and tied the game with a bottom-of-the-ninth home run.
Alex Rodriguez had another good view from the dugout three innings later when Ibanez homered to win it.
Saved by manager Joe Girardi 's gutsy move - and Ibanez's big swings - the New York Yankees rallied for a stunning 3-2 win in the 12th over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL division series.
"You're going to be asked a lot of questions if it doesn't work," Girardi said.
The slumping Rodriguez, among the greatest power hitters in history, offered no complaint, telling Girardi: "Joe, you gotta do exactly what you gotta do."
"Maybe 10 years ago I would have reacted in a much different way," A-Rod said.
Ibanez then stepped up and hit a tying, solo shot to right-center with one out in the ninth off major league saves leader Jim Johnson to make it 2-all.
Yankees fans had been howling this week for Girardi to drop Rodriguez out of the No. 3 spot in the batting order. But Girardi was reluctant to move his fading slugger down in the lineup.
Until he took him all the way out.
"You have to make some decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. I just had a gut feeling," Girardi said.
Rodriguez has 647 career home runs - he's chasing the all-time record of 762 by Barry Bonds - and is making $29 million this year. But was just 1 for 12 with no RBIs and seven strikeouts in this series when Girardi pulled him.
"It kind of caught me off-guard, hitting for a guy who's half-a-billionaire," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said.
It was the first time Rodriguez had ever been pinch-hit for in a postseason game, according to STATS LLC.
And it worked.
Rodriguez immediately turned to injured Yankees closer Mariano Rivera , raised one arm, then both arms and traded high-fives with his star teammate. When Ibanez returned to the bench, Rodriguez was the first player to greet him.
"He said great job. A-Rod is a great teammate and great team player," Ibanez said. "He's the first one on the top step congratulating you. It's about winning. It's about the Yankees and continuing."
Ibanez remained in the game and connected on the first pitch from Brian Matusz in the 12th.
Ibanez became the first player to homer twice in a postseason game in which he didn't start, STATS said.
Phil Hughes will try to clinch it for the Yankees on Thursday night in Game 4. Joe Saunders will start for Baltimore.
Baltimore had won 16 straight extra-inning games, and had been 76-0 when leading after seven, before the Yankees stung them.
"It was a great experience. We do it as a team. We stay after it," Ibanez said. "I'm blessed to come up and have the opportunity like that. We do it together. it's about a team and about winning."
The brash, young Orioles appeared poised to move within a win of their first trip to the AL championship series since 1997 before the Yankees' comeback.
Ibanez hit a 1-0 pitch into the seats in the ninth, setting off a raucous celebration in what had been a demoralized Yankee Stadium crowd.
After their 10-game July lead was cut to zero in early September, the Yankees repelled every Orioles charge. The teams were tied 10 times in the final month but New York ended up atop the division.
New York won the opener in Baltimore scoring five runs in the ninth off Johnson. The Orioles won Game 2 and rode Miguel Gonzalez 's pretty performance to a 2-1 lead in the ninth.
But the Yankees limited Baltimore to one hit after 20-year-old Manny Machado homered in the fifth. Ryan Flaherty homered earlier for the Orioles.
Robert Andino was doubled off second after leading off the Baltimore ninth with a single and advancing on a sacrifice.
Boone Logan got one out in relief of Hiroki Kuroda , who gave up two solo homers in 8 1-3 innings. Closer Rafael Soriano pitched 1 1-3 innings and David Robertson went two, finishing off his outing by bumping into and tagging Andino to end the top of the 12th.
Derek Jeter tied the score with an RBI triple in the third for the Yankees. Jeter, limping after fouling a ball off his foot, came out after eight innings. He says we will be able to play Thursday.
NOTES: Rivera threw out the ceremonial first pitch.