Three game losing streak? Hold a pre-game team meeting. While Alex Rodriguez's slump continues, the Yankees scrapped and rallied to defeat the Blue Jays5-4 on Saturday evening in front of more than 50,000 at the Rogers Centre, gaining a game back on the Red Sox who lost earlier in the day (the Yanks trail by two-and-a-half). Jorge Posada, the Bronx version of "Captain Red Ass," tripled (?!?) after objecting to a high offering by Ted Lilly which came close to his noggin, Bernie Williams hit a two-run homer, Jason Giambi had a clutch pinch-hit (he walked in his second at bat and was pinch run for by Jaret Wright!), and Derek Jeter drew a walk with the bases loaded, scoring what would be the game-winning run. For the second straight start Chien-Ming Wang was far from electric, but he was good enough while the Yankee bullpen was dynamite: Scott Proctor struck out the side in the seventh, ditto for Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth, and Mariano Rivera--who is way too cool for strikeouts by now--sent the Jays down, 1-2-3 in the ninth on two ground balls to Jeter and a pop fly to Rodriguez at third.
Rodriguez, who was taking ground balls five hours before the game began with coaches Larry Bowa and Don Mattingly, was the DH and only played the field in the ninth inning. Rodriguez struck out four times for the first time since 1995. Even more troubling was that Rodriguez swung through or fouled off at least four fat pitches in his last two at bats. It wasn't so much a case of the pitcher beating him as it was him beating himself. Rodriguez's troubles have gotten worse over the past week. What I find fascinating is that the cause of his fielding woes is his arm--something that has long been his strength defensively. I mean, his arm is that last thing I've ever worried about. (Perhaps the Yankees' next stop--in Texas to play the Rangers--will bring some comfort to Rodriguez.)
It's painful for everyone involved--from the fans to Rodriguez himself of course--watching the Yankees' superduper star struggle so mightly. The situation is intensified by the fact that the Yankee offense desperately needs his power. My girlfriend never cared much for Rodriguez until he became the target of the fans' ire. This morning, she released the following statement:
"There's no question that he will rebound from this slump. I'm patient until he does. And I wish everyone would just shut-up and leave him alone and give him the room to breath and continuing helping the Yankees win as he always has. Which is what the fans want...right?!"
In the clubhouse Saturday, after cuddling with his 20-month-old daughter, Natasha, Rodriguez was asked if he felt pressure mounting on the field. Appearances aside, he insisted he did not.
"Not at all," Rodriguez said. "You wish you could be hitting .340 with 35 home runs and Big Papi has, what, 95 R.B.I.?," he added, referring to Ortiz, who leads the majors with 92. "But, guys, this is a human being. You guys screw up sometimes. I'm sure sometimes when you guys write, you misspell a word. That's life, we're human beings.
"I wish we were perfect. But I feel very comfortable and very confident."
"I hear people say (A-Rod) might not be tough enough for this," Jackson said. "He's more than tough enough. You don't do what he's done in this game without being tough enough. I see it on his face every night. I see that he knows what every player knows, whether they're as great as he is or not: What a hard, humbling game this really is. You know why he'll play through this? Because he has to. He'll do what he's always done, and show up every day and go to work with a toolbox that has more in it than anybody else playing. More than (Albert) Pujols, more than anybody else you want to talk about.
"I signed the biggest contract once, and I knew when I did what I was taking on. And you better believe I knew that it was one more thing that I was going to have to carry up the hill with me. Alex is going up that same hill now. And it's like I just said: He'll make it because he has to, because we've got more than 60 home runs and 200 RBI on the bench (Matsui, Sheffield) and because he's as great as he is and because he just has to.
"It's like I told Jeter that time when he was 0-for-32: Figure it out because you ain't going anywhere. There ain't no place to hide. You never get hurt. You're not sitting down. You're gonna be there every day and you're Derek Jeter. Same way with Alex. He's Alex Rodriguez.
..."I wish they didn't boo him," he said. "I wish they didn't boo me. But I always respect the fans and love them and in the end, they aren't really a part of this, even if you know they want to love him. This isn't about whether you think the boos are justified or unjustified. It isn't about the media. This is about him. The guy has all that talent.
"You take on a lot of things when you take the money and come here and tough times are part of it. He'll get through this and he'll be better for it."
The Yanks will need Rodriguez's pop today, what with Bonzone on the hill for the Yanks. Here's hoping the Yanks can out-pound the Jays and come away with a split.