One Man Wrecking Crew: Rodriguez has First and Last Word
by Alex Belth
It was another sluggish day for the Yankees' starting pitching and their fielding. Hideki Matsui left the game with a tight hamstring (early reports indicate that he'll be okay). Kei Igawa became the first Yankee starter this season to make it through the fifth inning. Unfortunately, he didn't make it to the sixth, allowing seven runs, all of them earned, off of eight hits and three walks. A forgettable debut, indeed.
Alex Rodriguez's two-run dinger in the first got the Yankees on the board; he doubled in the fourth and scored on Jorge Posada's RBI single (one of those line drives to right at the Stadium that narrowly missed being a homer), then walked and scored on Jason Giambi's three-run bomb in the eighth. But would any of that matter to the uncompromisingly tough New York fans if Rodriguez failed in the ninth? Trailing by just one run, Rodriguez came to the plate with two men out and the bases juiced. He took a ball from Chris Ray and then swung through two fastballs.
Emily and I always hold our breath when Rodriguez comes up late in the game in big spots. I don't know if there is any Yankee player since Reggie that I root for in exactly the same way. I feel like I'm a kid again as far as he's concerned. My heart pumps faster when he's up, and I'm almost physically pained when he fails. I guess I respond to Rodriguez's neediness. As with Reggie, I feel like he really needs me.
I sat on the floor and prayed with Emily. "Just get a single, bro, nice and easy." Instead, Rodriguez launched Ray's 1-2 pitch into the black seats in center field for a grand slam home run. Sweet Georgia Brown. Final Score: Yanks 10, O's 7. I jumped up and down and yelled and hugged Emily, who will officially be my wife in less than two weeks. Rodriguez had a huge smile on his face as he circled the bases. His teammates mobbed him and when they all returned to the dugout, Derek Jeter pushed Rodriguez back-up the steps for a curtain call.
Alex Rodriguez is one of three players in history with three walk-off slams. The others are Vern Stephens of the old St. Louis Browns and Cy Williams of Philadelphia. Nobody has done it since 1950.
There was more general lousiness from the Yanks today, but Rodriguez was the star, from soup-to-nuts (Em says tomorrow's headlines should be directed at Rodriguez's detractors: "F*** All of You," or "Shut Your Pie-Hole"). And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.