Alex Rodriguez really wanted to hit home run No. 661 Thursday night.
In his first at-bat of the Yankees' 4-3 victory over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, A-Rod was robbed of the long ball that would have broken his tie with Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list when the Orioles' Delmon Young reached over the rightfield wall to make a leaping catch.
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But Rodriguez was not going to be denied his place in history on this night.
In his second at-bat, in the third inning, A-Rod launched a majestic drive into deepest left-centerfield. The ball cleared the fence and went into a loading-dock area just to the left of Monument Park to give Rodriguez a milestone home run the Yankees had no monetary reason to ignore -- even if they didn't exactly go crazy celebrating it.
The Yankees briefly noted the achievement with a message on the centerfield scoreboard that was visible for less than 10 seconds.
Rodriguez tied Mays with his 660th home run Friday night in Boston. The Yankees have said they will not pay Rodriguez a $6-million marketing bonus he was to receive when he tied Mays. The Yankees' position is Rodriguez's milestone is not marketable because of his past PED use. Rodriguez has not said if he is going to file a grievance over the Yankees' refusal to pay.
"That's not where my mind is right now," Rodriguez said. "I'm really just trying to enjoy this moment."
It was definitely a watered-down moment for such a historic home run. Rodriguez wasn't even sure he should take the curtain call the crowd of 39,816 wanted. Rodriguez eventually popped out and raised both arms in triumph.
"I certainly thought the days of curtain calls for me were long gone," he said. "I was a little embarrassed and it was a little awkward. I didn't want the game to stop. I did not want to interrupt the game . . . I tried to do it as fast as I can."
Rodriguez (2-for-3, two RBIs) ended the night 53 home runs away from tying Babe Ruth for third place with 714. Rodriguez tying Ruth would trigger another $6 million marketing bonus, and, perhaps, another dispute.
"All of this is pretty crazy," Rodriguez said. "A year ago today I never thought I would get a curtain call, be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the New York Yankees, helping our team win. Or when I started playing baseball at the Boys and Girls Club in Miami when I was nine years old."
Rodriguez said a Yankees employee retrieved the ball for him. "I just signed a bat," Rodriguez said. "I'd like to meet him tomorrow and thank him personally."
Rodriguez's seventh home run came on a 1-and-1 pitch from Baltimore righthander Chris Tillman (2-4), against whom A-Rod is 6-for-12 with four homers.
Nathan Eovaldi (3-0) allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings for the victory. Justin Wilson threw 1 1/3 perfect innings, Dellin Betances struck out one in a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Andrew Miller survived a leadoff walk in the ninth by retiring the next three with two strikeouts for his 12th save. Mark Teixeira drove in the eventual winning run with a tiebreaking fifth-inning double.
But it was A-Rod's night.
"It's obviously a big deal," Brett Gardner said. "There's a lot of questions surrounding everything, but still 661 home runs is a lot -- 650 more than I've got, I think. I see how hard Alex works every day and how much he loves to win and how much he loves to compete. I'm really happy for him."