Alex Rodriguez said he could feel the difference between his seventh-inning at-bat and his eighth-inning at-bat. He could hear the crowd. He could see the flash bulbs. He saw the umpires put a specially marked ball into play. Rodriguez said his approach was the same but, “I was a little bit more excited.”
And so the pursuit for home run No. 600 began. After hitting No. 599 in the seventh inning — actually a pretty big home run in the course of the game — Rodriguez settled for an RBI double in the eighth.
“I’m going hit it,” Rodriguez said. “And when I hit it, I hope like tonight it’s going to count for a win.”
Back in 2007, Rodriguez went 28 at-bats between No. 499 and 500, but Rodriguez said he was a different guy back then. He’s been saying for more than a year now that he’s changed as a person, and tonight he said he’s changed as a player after winning a World Series.
“Night and day,” he said. “A lot has changed. I’m enjoying the game more now than I ever have. I get enjoyment out of the little things, playing the team game and not trying to do too much, and having the perspective that I have now after winning a world championship with this team. There’s really no comparison of a team accomplishment to a personal accomplishment. They’re great and nice, but I have a much better perspective now…
“Early in my career I loved winning and I loved to win, but it was about accumulating numbers and hoping you got to the postseason. Now it’s just about one goal, and along the way you hope to get big home runs and drive in runs to help us win.”
Maybe that’s just Rodriguez trying to say the right thing, and maybe none of it matters anyway, but he seems comfortable with his place on the edge of history. The fact he doubled to right center in his first attempt seemed to be a sign of not pressing or trying to overdo it.
Only six hitters in major league history have been where he is now. They all hit No. 600 eventually. Here’s Rodriguez talking after the game.
• Neither Derek Jeter nor Joe Girardi remembered that Jeter’s only other inside-the-park home run came with Girardi on base. Someone suggested that Jeter probably caught up to Girardi on the bases. Jeter laughed and said two words. “Write that.”
• Brett Gardner was the first Yankees left fielder to have two assists in a game since Melky Cabrera in 2006. Nick Swisher had two assists from right field earlier this year.
• CC Sabathia is the first American League pitcher to reach 13 wins. “He had given up seven hits after the first two innings, and that’s a lot of hits for CC in a game,” Girardi said. “He found a way to get it done tonight, and that’s the mark of a good pitcher.”
• After allowing three runs before getting his fourth out, Sabathia retired 11 of the next 12 batters… He is undefeated in his past 17 Yankee Stadium starts, which Elias says in the longest home winning streak in the majors… He extended his career-high homeless streak to 66 innings.
• Girardi on Jorge Posada’s run-scoring throwing error in the sixth: “At times as players we’re going to make reads that are incorrect. His idea is to hold the guy there, and obviously he saw a bigger lead than maybe there was.”
• Another nice performance by Dave Robertson who shut the door in the seventh, stranding two runners. It was a one-run game at the time. “He’s done it a couple of times this home stand for us,” Girardi said. “We think he’s going in the right direction and that’s real important for us because he was a huge part of our bullpen last season.”
• Girardi on Joba Chamberlain’s scoreless eighth when he allowed two infield singles and a walk but stranded the bases loaded: “Bottom line is he got the job done, and he was not hit hard that inning. He’s given up some infield singles the last couple of outings. It’s not what you want to see, but the bottom line is he got the job done. I’m sure he would enjoy some easier innings.”
• Someone asked Girardi whether the team was giving Jeter a hard time after his inside-the-park homer, and Girardi’s answer was most unexpected. “We were more concerned about Swish,” he said. Turns out — maybe it was on TV, but I certainly didn’t notice it — Nick Swisher was hit in the nose by the umpire on the play. Pretty random.
Associated Press photos of Rodriguez before his last at-bat and Jeter after his inside-the-park home run.