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A-Rod manufactures a huge run
10/10/2004 3:25 AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Alex Rodriguez has heard 252 million times about his contract and some question whether any player is worth that amount of money. Rodriguez is no doubt one of the more gifted players of his generation with his combination of power, athleticism and grace.

Very little of what he did in the 11th inning of Game 4 of the ALDS, however, was powerful or graceful. Rodriguez put on a clinic on how to manufacture a run, single-handedly leading the Bombers to a 6-5, series-clinching win over the Minnesota Twins in front of 52,498 at the Metrodome.

The Yankees earned another ALCS clash with the Boston Red Sox, which swept the Anaheim Angels in three games.

After the Yankees rallied for four runs in the eighth to tie the game at 5, both bullpens tightened their grips and the game rolled into extra innings. Minnesota right-hander Kyle Lohse began the 11th by striking out Derek Jeter looking. Rodriguez then laced a 1-1 pitch down the left-field line for a double.

With Gary Sheffield coming to the plate, it would be understandable if Rodriguez allowed the team's leading RBI man to drive him in. But he wasn't satisfied with standing on second and waiting for a base hit. On a 2-1 pitch, he saw Lohse give a high leg kick and stole third base without a throw, which seemed to unnerve the pitcher.

With Sheffield still at the plate, Rodriguez took a wide lead off third base and Lohse then uncorked a wild pitch under catcher Pat Borders to score Rodriguez easily for the eventual winning run.

Rodriguez's most important contribution of the season came not by a long home run or amazing play at third base, but because of pure hustle and instinct.

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
Game 1 at New York         NYY 10, BOS 7
Game 2 at New York         NYY 3, BOS 1
Game 3 at Boston Fri. Oct. 15 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 4 at Boston Sat. Oct. 16 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 5* at Boston Sun. Oct. 17 7:30 p.m. FOX  
Game 6* at New York Tue. Oct. 19 8:00 p.m. FOX  
Game 7* at New York Wed. Oct. 20 8:00 p.m. FOX  
 * If necessary
"I think what makes you a winning player is you have to be able to do the little things," he said. "You can't always play big ball. I thought there was a window of opportunity with Lohse and I told Sheffield, 'I'm going to steal in the first two pitches.'"

It's a testament to how talented Rodriguez truly is. He has always wowed fans with his eye-popping numbers and the ability to make the game look rather easy. But his knack for base running goes largely unnoticed.

"He's so multidimensional," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He can do just about anything he wants. Obviously, the stolen base was a huge part of that inning when we scored. He is on a special run right now and hopefully we can carry it through the championship series."

It was these types of tangibles that encouraged the Boston Red Sox to attempt to trade for Rodriguez in the offseason. Only a players' association ruling kept Rodriguez from being a Red Sox in this rivalry and not a Yankee.

In July, Rodriguez's exchange with Jason Varitek sparked a bench-clearing fracas with the Red Sox at Fenway Park. So he realizes he is going to be a central figure in this series.

"We know Boston and they know us as well as any other team," he said. "It's going to be a great challenge and I have had a great appetite (of it) over the summer. I know they're going to come out ready, and so are we."

That's pretty much all Rodriguez wanted to say about the Red Sox. He said he plans to sleep the next two days after doing more than his share to help fend of the pesky Twins. He finished with a team-best .421 average with one homer, three RBIs and two very important stolen bases.

If Yankee fans didn't know by now, A-Rod is more than just the numbers on the back of a baseball card. He is emerging as a leader on a team filled with them.

"Statistics will probably be how a lot of people look at A-Rod after he's finished playing," Torre said. "But you have really have to appreciate how talented he is and how many instincts (he has). He manufactured that last run all by himself."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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