Alex Rodriguez wasn't running from what, to this point, has defined his career as a Yankee.
It's not the continuation of his streak of 12 straight seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs - and a record 13 overall - which he achieved in improbable fashion Sunday when he hit two home runs and drove in seven runs in one inning.
It's some of the other numbers that dominate his resume.
"Here's the deal: I hit cleanup for a reason," Rodriguez said Sunday. "My team expects a lot out of me. We all understand [it takes] 25 men to win a championship, you need every guy. And when you lose, people look around and numbers get dissected. And I understand the score and that's the way it is. That's the way it should be."
The dissection doesn't produce a flattering picture. Among the ugly postseason statistics for A-Rod: a 4-for-50 slump spanning the last four games of the 2004 ALCS, the ALDS in 2005 and 2006, and the first two games of the ALDS in 2007.
A-Rod also went 15 straight postseason games in that span without an RBI, breaking that streak with a mostly meaningless home run in the Game 4 loss to Cleveland that knocked the Yankees from the 2007 postseason. He did go 4-for-9 in the final two games of that series, but he was 0-for-6 in the first two games as the Yankees fell into an 0-2 hole.
"I'm confident that I will do well and my team will, too," Rodriguez said of this postseason.
He called the lineup surrounding him "unique" because of its ability to produce runs from nearly every spot, but he reiterated his understanding of his place in it.
"I also know I'm hitting cleanup for a reason and it's going to be important for me to come up with some big hits when my number's called," he said. "And I'm looking forward to that opportunity."
His manager believes Rodriguez will succeed.
"I'm extremely confident in what he's going to do," Joe Girardi said last weekend. "I just feel that he's experienced it, I think he's . . . I've talked about it before; he's had time to self-reflect in March and April and I just feel he's in a different place."
That has been a common theme for Rodriguez, one the slugger mentioned several times this season. In early August, he said he's felt more relaxed than at any point in his career here.
It stems from the bad start he had to 2009: He revealed in February that he had used the performance-enhancing drug Primobolan and sat out the first five weeks of the season as he recovered from hip surgery.
"This is the best I've ever gotten along with my teammates and the most at peace I've been in New York," Rodriguez said at the Stadium Aug. 8. "I think the humiliation of spring training and how embarrassing and hard that was for me allows me to just move forward and play baseball. That's what I'm good at. When I have to talk, I'm not good at that. We all know that."
Rodriguez declared in spring training that his travails would help him cut the fat - i.e., off-the-field distractions - from his life and allow him to zero in on baseball.
The skepticism that greeted that was almost universal, which Rodriguez understood.
"I told you guys in spring training that I had to focus this year on playing baseball and cutting off all unnecessary distractions, and I didn't expect any of you guys to take me at my word. I don't blame you," he said this past weekend. "But for me, I think I've done a good job of that this year."
To the tune of smashing a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw this season and hitting a grand slam on the last pitch, allowing him to reach 30 homers and 100 RBIs in only 124 games. After Rodriguez's return, the Yankees went 90-44, the best record in baseball.
"I think it's fair to say I hit rock bottom this spring," he said Sunday. "Between the embarrassment of the press conference and my career being threatened with my hip injury, and the unknown of not knowing whether I could bounce back, I think my life and my career was at a crossroad, and I was either going to stay at the bottom or I was going to bounce back."
Rodriguez unquestionably did bounce back this season, but will that continue when the postseason starts tonight?
"He's been a clutch player for a long time," Girardi said. "So much is always talked about what Alex didn't do the last few [postseasons]; there's a lot of other guys who didn't do it, either. But he happens to be the focus and we have to have all our other guys contribute. You can't just have one guy contributing or you're not going to win. I mean, Alex could have the greatest postseason of his life, but chances are, if no one else does anything, we're not winning. It takes everybody."
Five A-Rod moments
Alex Rodriguex in the postseason spotlight as a Yankee — for better or worse:
2004 ALCS vs. Boston, Game 3: This could be A-Rod’s high point as a Yankee. He went 3-for-5 with a walk, home run, three RBIs and five runs scored in the Yankees’ 19-8 win at Fenway Park. The Yankees took a 3-0 series lead. The Red Sox won the next four.
2005 ALDS vs. Anaheim, Game 5: After the Yankees lost the game and the series with A-Rod going 2-for-15 and making a crucial error in Game 2, the regular season MVP said: "I played great baseball all year, and I played like a dog the last five days. I can't put it into words. This is as low as it gets.” Actually, it’s not.
2004 ALCS vs. Boston, Game 6: A-Rod slaps the ball out of pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s glove while trying to beat out an eighth-inning comebacker. He makes it to second and a run scores to bring the Yankees to within 4-3. But umpires later rule A-Rod out for interference, the run doesn’t count and the Yankees lose 4-2.