CLEVELAND — Alex Rodriguez came up empty last night, at least in terms of becoming the seventh major leaguer to hit 600 home runs. But it was otherwise all good, both for Rodriguez and the Yankees, in an 8-0 victory over the Indians at Progressive Field.
Though he went homerless, A-Rod did go 2-for-5, including a milestone of some sort — his 471st double, which came in the sixth inning and tied Larry Walker for 74th all-time.
Rodriguez has gone six games without a home run since hitting No. 599 last Thursday, but he’s hardly slumping, going 8-for-26 in that stretch.
“I could care less about 0-for-4,” said Rodriguez, who was 0-for-8 the first two games of this series. “But I did like the approach tonight much better, with hits or without hits. The most important thing is we won the game. Oh-for-4s are no big deal but what is a big deal is your approach, and I thought tonight my approach was much better than the last two nights.”
Rodriguez thought he went out of the strike zone a few too many times the first two games but he had mostly good at-bats last night, as did his teammates.
The Yankees (64-36) stayed two games ahead of the Rays, whom they visit this weekend. Burnett (9-8) won his second straight start since injuring his hands during a fit of anger in his start July 17 against Tampa. He went 61/3 innings, extending his scoreless streak to 111/3. He struck out seven and walked three and said his curveball was “about as good as it’s been in a long time.”
Burnett has thrown well in four of his last five starts, with his blowup against the Rays the lone exception.
“This is probably the best I’ve felt in a long time as far as just staying within myself and my delivery,” Burnett said. “We have a good run going and we need to keep it going in my next start.”
The Yankees did get one home run, Robinson Cano’s 19th, a solo shot in the fourth that made it 8-0.
Before the game, Joe Girardi said it would be only natural for Rodriguez to be getting antsy for the chase for 600 to end.
“He has not said anything that would lead me to believe that he is eager to get it over with,” Girardi said, “but I think it’s only human nature.”
After a thunderstorm delayed the start of the game 42 minutes, Rodriguez got plenty of cracks at No. 600 early on, batting once in each of the first three innings.
His final three at-bats came against rookie righthanders — Hector Ambriz in the third (he struck out); Jess Todd in the sixth (double); and Frank Herrmann in the eighth. Herrmann, a Harvard graduate with an economics degree, came after Rodriguez with a fastball consistently at 96 and 97 mph, eventually winning the 10-pitch struggle when A-Rod flew to right.
“I got tons of text messages, all my buddies were watching the YES Network at home,” said Herrmann, who was born in Rutherford, N.J. “They were saying ‘Good thing you didn’t walk him.’ They wouldn’t have let me go home if I walked him. I was probably better off giving up a home run than walking him, and I knew that out there.”
For Girardi and A-Rod, it was another round of pregame and postgame questions that both know will end soon, but not yet.
“It’s going to happen,” Girardi said. “Until it does, we’re going to continue to talk about it.”