There were many boos, but Alex Rodriguez was mostly cheered by fans at a sold-out Yankee Stadium before his at-bats against the Tigers in his first home game of the year Friday night.
Until he struck out. Three times. Then it was only boos.
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A-Rod, who is playing while appealing a 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball for alleged ties to performance-enhancing drugs, went 0-for-4 in the Yankees' 4-3, 10-inning victory before leaving for a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.
As A-Rod watched, the Yankees turned a 3-1 lead over to Mariano Rivera. But Rivera -- one strike away from a save, just as he had been Wednesday -- blew his second save in a row, giving up a tying two-out, two-run homer to reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, who was injured earlier in the at-bat.
Rivera nearly had escaped when Cabrera hit a foul pop toward the first-base dugout. But Lyle Overbay, who did not leave his feet, couldn't snare the ball despite leaning as far as he could into the dugout. Said Overbay, "It's not an easy play, so it wasn't like I was hanging my head. And we still had a chance with Mariano on the mound. I'll take him over any hitter any day . . . I thought the ball was going to be deep in. I got there as quick as possible, but it came back in on me.''
Cabrera then appeared to hurt himself on a subsequent swing; he limped around home plate but stayed in the game. On the next pitch, he fouled a ball off his left leg. More limping.
But he wasn't done. He crushed a 2-and-2 pitch 430 feet onto the netting above Monument Park for his 34th homer, producing a "wow'' from Rivera "because he was limping; that was amazing'' and a 3-3 tie.
"I'm pretty sure I didn't have a chance at that one,'' Brett Gardner said. "Not many guys square Mo up at all. But he's the best hitter in the game and he got him.''
But Gardner's two-out RBI single with the bases loaded in the 10th, a ground ball slapped past diving third baseman Cabrera, ended the Tigers' winning streak at 12 games. The Yankees had been 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The Tigers went 2-for-13 and left 14 on base.
The Cabrera-Rivera matchup was pure baseball theater at its best. The A-Rod situation was something else entirely.
Before his first at-bat in the first inning, much of the crowd of 46,545 stood and applauded. Others booed. It seemed no one in the jam-packed stadium was indifferent. The din was so loud that it was hard to hear Rodriguez being introduced by public address announcer Paul Olden.
A-Rod was the Yankees' fifth batter. During the at-bat, a faint "Let's Go A-Rod" chant broke out. So did more boos. Said Gardner, "I still don't understand people wearing a Yankees shirt pulling against their own guys. Pull for your own team, at least.''
Rodriguez, batting with a man on second and two outs, struck out against righthander Rick Porcello. The boos were more voluminous after the strikeout.
Fans had many opportunities to weigh in on Rodriguez before his first at-bat. Among them:
Lineup introductions: At about 7:40, he was introduced. About 60 percent of the fans booed. The others cheered. No other Yankees were booed.
Defensive alignment introductions: The Yankees in the field introduced themselves on the centerfield scoreboard in a taped segment. Rodriguez was soundly booed -- more like 80/20 this time -- when he announced his name and position.
The Roll Call: The Bleacher Creatures in rightfield chanted "A-Rod!" with great gusto during the ritualistic Roll Call. Fans in other sections of the stadium started to boo over the chant. Rodriguez waved his glove.
It was Rodriguez's fourth game of the season after his recovery from offseason hip surgery and a nettlesome quadriceps injury. He is 3-for-15 with two walks and five strikeouts.
Robinson Cano gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the third with a two-run double to center. After Alfonso Soriano struck out, Rodriguez came up again to a similar cheers/boos mixture -- perhaps a few more boos this time. There was no questioning the response after he struck out again.
Batting in the fifth with two outs and runners on first and second, Rodriguez flied to right. He led off the eighth against Bruce Rondon and was caught looking at a 3-and-2 slider on the outside corner. More boos.
Rodriguez declined several interview requests before the game and left afterward without speaking to reporters.
Ivan Nova allowed one run in seven innings for the Yankees. He gave up eight hits, walked two and struck out seven.
With David Lennon