Alex Rodriguez did a fair impression of the man with whom he's been linked the most, for better or worse -- mostly the latter -- during his Yankees career.
A-Rod became the 29th player to reach 3,000 career hits when he blasted an opposite-field homer off former AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in the first inning Friday night.
It was oddly similar to the way in which Derek Jeter -- the last (and previously only) man to reach 3,000 hits in a Yankee uniform -- did it: with a home run.
Jeter turned the trick July 9, 2011, with a long homer off the Rays' David Price. A-Rod's came on Verlander's first pitch to him, a 95-mph fastball that he sent about five rows deep in the rightfield seats. It gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead in their 7-2 win over the Tigers at the Stadium.
"I was happy to get it out of the way and so happy to do it here in front of our fans," said A-Rod, who pointed to his daughters, Natasha and Ella, in the moment. "And I was especially happy my daughters were sitting behind home plate. It was just really nice to share with both of them."
The 667th home run of Rodriguez's career was one of three hit by the Yankees (37-30), with Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner (four hits, three RBIs) also going deep. Gardner's two-run shot in the fifth gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead. Adam Warren (5-4) was terrific, allowing two runs, seven hits and no walks in a career-high eight innings.
Still, on this night, all of that took a backseat to A-Rod.
The Stadium crowd of 44,588, which came to its feet when Rodriguez was introduced before his first at-bat and remained standing during it, roared as the ball cleared the wall. The drive went an estimated 373 feet, according to ESPN Stats ... Information.
"I don't ever want to give up a hit," said Verlander, who allowed six runs and 10 hits in 62/3 innings. "I definitely don't want to be part of the history that way. But hats off to him."
Price, now a Tiger, watched from the visitor's dugout, which appeared unmoved, though former Yankee Joba Chamberlain briefly applauded the feat.
"It's a bittersweet one for me, obviously, to be down 1-0 and do that, but 3,000 hits is a lot of hits," Chamberlain said. "As a friend, I'm very happy for him."
Rodriguez and Hank Aaron are the only players to have at least 3,000 hits, 600 home runs and 2,000 RBIs.
The ovation that greeted Jeter's accomplishment lasted nearly five minutes; Friday night's lasted just over two.
Rodriguez's teammates poured from the dugout, with Mark Teixeira, the on-deck hitter, the first to reach him.
"He still knows how to hit," said Gardner, who also had a close-up view of Jeter's 3,000th. "I've definitely been a part of some pretty cool memories."
A-Rod -- whose season-long suspension last year for PED use has almost entirely receded to the background as the hits, homers and RBI totals have mounted -- responded to the still-cheering fans with a curtain call. "This whole week has been a special week," he said.
Given the acrimony between the Yankees and A-Rod over home run payments in his contract -- the club believes his milestones are not marketable because of his admitted use of PEDs and told him before spring training that it didn't intend to pay the $6 million for home run No. 660 or any other historic number he may reach -- there was some intrigue about how No. 3,000 would be handled at the Stadium.
Throughout the celebration, the scoreboard read: "Congratulations Alex! 3,000 hits!" and during the game, the Yankees' Twitter account sent out a brief statement: "From the Steinbrenner family and the New York Yankees: 'Congratulations Alex on your 3,000th hit.' "
Rodriguez's climb toward the number has been a steady one. Hardly looking like a player putting too much pressure on himself to reach it, he entered Friday night with a .278/.384/.505 slash line, 12 homers (second-most on the team) and 34 RBIs (third-most). He was 8-for-his-last-22 entering the game, having gone 2-for-4 in Thursday night's victory over the Marlins to get within one of the milestone.
Entering Friday night, Rodriguez was 10-for-28 with a double, four home runs, four walks and a .357/.455/.821 slash line against Verlander.
"Last night I just kept staring at the ceiling at about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," he said. "I didn't get much sleep just thinking about the day and anticipating what today would be like. But the fans were incredible yesterday and just gave me a lot of confidence coming into today."
With Mike Gavin