The camera flashes flickered throughout Yankee Stadium, illuminating the tiers in an intermittent white glow. Eager fans stood, poised to capture the incredible moment: Alex Rodriguez's 600th home run.
But it was the white flashes in the sky that put a damper on his pursuit of the milestone Friday.
The Yankees wound up with a 7-1 win over the Royals after a torrential downpour and lightning halted the game at 8:46 p.m. with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The Yankees were leading 4-0 and Robinson Cano was at the plate with a 1-and-0 count.
After play resumed at about 9:50 p.m., Brett Gardner's two-out, two-run single in the sixth made it 6-0 and Jorge Posada added an RBI single in the seventh for a seven-run lead.
Before the rain came, Yankees fans rose to their feet each time Rodriguez stepped to the plate - and each time they seemed disappointed. They booed Brian Bannister after he walked him in the first, and after Rodriguez reached on an infield single in the third, they booed umpire Bill Miller for calling out A-Rod on a 2-and-2 pitch in the fifth.
Thunderous applause erupted as he made his way to the plate in the sixth. This time he singled to left-center. In the eighth, he chopped a grounder to third. He was replaced by Ramiro Peña in the ninth and left before reporters could speak to him.
Rodriguez entered the game 4-for-7 with three home runs against Bannister, but it seemed as if everyone but A-Rod got a big hit in the first inning, in which the Yankees scored four runs on three doubles.
Joe Girardi said he liked Rodriguez's approach at the plate and didn't think he was pressing. He also said it would be impossible for the third baseman not to be aware of the building anticipation with every passing at-bat.
"I think you have to [hear it]," he said. "I don't know how you could be immune to it. I don't think he necessarily hears it once he gets focused in on the pitch and the ball's coming, but when you're standing on deck there, you have to be able to hear it."
Gardner led off the first with a double and continued to third when rightfielder Alex Gordon dropped the ball for an error. One out later, Bannister hit Mark Teixeira with a pitch and walked Rodriguez to load the bases for Cano, who crushed a high 3-and-2 fastball up the left-centerfield alley. Three runs scored on the double, and Posada made it 4-0 with a double that gave him his 1,000th career RBI.
"It means a lot," he said of the milestone. "RBIs are special. You want to be a run-producer."
Another key storyline also played out: A.J. Burnett appeared to regain confidence in his stuff. He allowed four hits, a walk and no runs in five innings before the rain delay (58 pitches, 36 strikes) and was replaced by Chad Gaudin when the game resumed. Said Girardi, "Obviously, we would have liked to have him go deeper in the game, but we had too long of a rain delay. Once you get past the half-an-hour, 40 minutes, you start to worry."
"It was definitely a good start in the right direction," said Burnett (8-8), who suffered lacerations on both hands last Saturday when he angrily pushed a door after a frustrating second inning. "Unfortunately, the rain came as I found the release point on my curveball. But it was a great night all around.''
The Yankees moved a season-high 27 games over .500 at 61-34 and are four games ahead of the second-place Rays.