Maybe Brian Fuentes didn’t get the memo. Teeing up an 0-and-2 fastball for Alex Rodriguez with the game on the line? That may have worked in the past, but those repeated failures on the October stage are now ancient history for A-Rod.
Last night, with the Yankees down 3-2, Fuentes took the mound for the start of the 11th inning in Game 2 of the ALCS and immediately got ahead of Rodriguez. But for whatever reason, the Angels’ closer left the next pitch out over the plate and A-Rod drilled it for a tying home run that barely cleared the rightfield wall.
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It was so close, in fact, that the ball ricocheted back onto the field
and confused Rodriguez, who slowed up until he looked at second-base umpire Jerry Layne circling his finger to signal the home run.
“I thought both pitches were tough,” said Rodriguez, who was a .194 hitter this season with an 0-and-2 count. “ I felt once he got me in the hole he probably felt more confident that he could put me away. And hitting the ball to right field, throughout my whole career, has been a big key for my success.”
His sense of timing has been pretty good, too. Rodriguez began this
postseason with a game-tying homer off Twins closer Joe Nathan in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the Division Series. Two days later, Rodriguez did it again with another tying homer in what eventually was the clinching Game 3 at the Metrodome.
“Well, he's swinging the bat great,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It's
pretty unbelievable what he's done for us so far. I talked about it before the playoffs started that I thought he was in a great place. He's been huge for us.”
As for the critical homers, that’s really nothing new for Rodriguez in 2009. During the regular season, 15 of his 30 homers either tied the score or put the Yankees in front. And of his 13 home runs in the seventh inning or later, seven pulled the Yankees even or gave them the lead.
“I'm going to do what I've done all year,” Rodriguez said. “Try to stay in the moment and really enjoy the moment. I know I had a blast out there today. That was a great game. That's what I've been doing all year. Trying to keep things simple and not trying to think too much.”
Rodriguez added there was nothing “profound” about his October turnaround, but no one has had a bigger impact on the Yankees this month.
“The fact that I'm out there playing baseball is a miracle,” said Rodriguez, who returned from hip surgery back in May. “I'm very thankful for that.”