Slumping for the past week and a half, Alex Rodriguez was predictably hitless in his first three at-bats tonight, but Joe Girardi said he noticed one thing in those three at-bats.
“When I saw him run to first today, I thought it was the best I had seen him run in a while,” Girardi said. “And it wasn’t that he was necessarily running hard, but it didn’t look like there was any hindrance. It looked like he was able to run pretty freely. And I thought, hmm, that looks different than what I’ve seen in the last few days. Maybe it’s also being off the turf, I’m not really sure, but he’s a guy that uses his lower half a lot, and when you don’t have it, it’s a little more difficult.”
Slowed by a bad hamstring and a bad calf, Rodriguez had one hit in his past 25 at-bats before hitting tonight’s game-winner, a seventh-inning grand slam that gave the Yankees at least a little bit of life heading into these final eight games.
It seems telling that this win came on a strong start by CC Sabathia, an early home run by Alfonso Soriano, and a “vintage” at-bat — to use Sabathia’s term — by Rodriguez. Hard to imagine the Yankees making an improbable run without those key players.
“I came out the last three or four days in Toronto and ran a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “Ran some early today. I think my legs are getting better. I’ve been missing the balls, a lot of high towering fly balls, and I thought my legs were a little better today.”
About a minute later, Rodriguez said this…
“One swing can turn a lot of things around.”
That’s the hope, anyway.
• Sabathia has actually won each of his past four starts at Yankee Stadium, but this one certainly felt different. It was more of that bend-don’t-break Sabathia that the Yankees came to know the previous four years. “I just felt like I had a better plane, being able to throw the ball down and away,” Sabathia said. “Got some strikes down there, and I think that made a big difference. … I was kind of erratic a little bit with the control, but we were able to make pitches and keep them off the board for the most part.”
• One interesting clubhouse moment: After Sabathia finished his postgame interview, a few of us were joking with him about his Andy Pettitte comment — “He’s getting old,” Sabathia said with a big laugh — when someone reached past me for a big, sturdy fist bump, prompting a knowing nod from Sabathia. I figured it had to be one of the veteran starters, but it was J.R. Murphy. “Sequences were good,” Sabathia had said, unprompted during the interview. “Murph called a great game and we were kind of on the same page.” The fact he’s getting to play this much certainly suggests Murphy’s already earned some believers in that clubhouse.
• Sabathia’s full answer about Pettitte’s retirement: “It’s tough. He’s not (only) one of my best friends on the team, he’s one of my best friends in life. To not have him around is going to be tough, but I wish him the best. I know how hard it is for him to be away from his family. He’s getting old. I’m excited for him.”
• Rodriguez passed Lou Gehrig for the most grand slams in baseball history. “That means I’m getting old,” Rodriguez said. “It’s hard to think about things like that when I’m really on the sprint that I am here. Every win is huge for us. … I’m a huge Lou Gehrig fan. I think there will be a time to reflect on that many years after I’m done playing. The time is not right now.”
• It was Rodriguez’s 14th grand slam with the Yankees, moving him ahead of Joe DiMaggio for second place on the Yankees all-time list.
• Doesn’t seem necessary at this point, but Rodriguez actually said he’s holding out some hope that he’ll play third base again before the end of the season. “I hope so,” he said. “I came out early today. Got some ground balls yesterday. I’ll have a conversation here with Joe hopefully in the next day or two, and I can get out there and make our lineup a little bit deeper.”
• On the decision to use Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation: “Well, you don’t want to get into a situation where they get a couple of guys on and you have to bring him in,” Girardi said. “So, this way he’s got wiggle room. We’ve got an off day on Monday, so I figure that I can use three in a row.”
• Alfonso Soriano’s solo home run gave him 100 RBI for the year. He has reached that mark for the second straight season and the fourth time in his career. Soriano has 34 RBI in 25 games at Yankee Stadium since the trade.
• Did Girardi think the grand slam was getting out? “I was pretty sure,” he said. “But that didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to help it along.”
• Final word goes to Sabathia: “One hundred percent, everybody in here feels that (urgency). It’s time to go. We need to try to win out. … Why couldn’t we? Anything can happen. We’ve got the guys in here. You saw what happened tonight, and hopefully we can just keep playing well.”
Associated Press photos