© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
BOSTON -- In the battle between the High Socks and the Green Sox, it was a spectacular draw.
Alex Rodriguez and his stretched hose stretched reality two more times on Friday night at Fenway Park, but then the discolored home team completely shattered that reality with five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring four of them with Mariano Rivera on the mound.
Hey, we had told you to not expect any six-run ninth-inning rallies in this series. Didn't say anything about five in the eighth, though.
So the season's first meeting of American League East behemoths was an absolutely perfect example of why this rivalry is the best of both American sports and drama.
Rodriguez, baseball's most underpaid superstar, began the night on a pace to hit 116 home runs, which, obviously, was a ridiculous notion. Then he stepped up
that pace; after Nos. 11 and 12, he is on track for 130.
Yet, as Rodriguez furthers the fairy-tale start to his season with two more home runs, danged if the Sox will let him enjoy it. Take your clouts, and take a 7-6 loss, too.
"He's on an unbelievable run," said Andy Pettitte, who benefited from Rodriguez's double shots with a 6-2 lead that didn't survive. "I'm glad he's on my side. He's crushing the ball all over the field. Amazing."
Everyone in the record crowd of 36,786 left happy after getting both sides of the coin. They wanted to see their Old Towne team win, and they also wanted to see Rodriguez stay high. They really did; the obligatory antagonism toward A-Rod melted into appreciation and awe.
"I'll really be surprised if he doesn't
homer," said a Red Sox jersey-clad fan on Yawkey Way shortly before first pitch.
He wasn't surprised, twice.
While the afternoon was still warm, Rodriguez walked out of the clubhouse tunnel and onto the field -- trust us, he was walking, not floating -- and one of the Yankees fans bunched behind their dugout focused on his retro-chic socks style.
"Keep those socks up!" yelled the fan, implying some connection between Rodriguez playing all season with navy socks pulled just below his knees and hitting home runs at a Bunyan-esque pace.
Yes, yes. They used to refer to such feats as Ruthian. But Babe Ruth never did anything like this. Paul Bunyan didn't play baseball, but if he had, he might have cut people down to size the way Rodriguez has for three weeks.
Socks up, Rodriguez clocked two more home runs, for four more RBIs, against the Boston Green Sox, who wore green to honor Red (Auerbach).
Rodriguez joins Mike Schmidt, who hit 12 homers in the first 15 games in 1976, as the fastest to reach a dozen in baseball history.
Rodriguez's weakest at-bat against Curt Schilling produced a first-inning fly ball to the warning track in straightaway center, which here is about 380 feet from the plate. That was his worst. Late, he chipped in a double off J.C. Romero.
He has 23 hits this season. Five of them are singles.
"He isn't even getting singles," said Pettitte, who had been in Houston for Rodriguez's first three Bronx seasons. "I've never played with him before, but no one could expect this. Hope he grinds it out as long as he can."
Alex Rodriguez's 2007 home runs
|4/2 vs. T.B.||Juan Salas||8th||1 on, 2 out||9-5 win||
|4/7 vs. Bal.||Steve Trachsel||1st||1 on, 2 out||10-7 win||
|4/7 vs. Bal.||Chris Ray||9th||3 on, 2 out||10-7 win **||
|4/8 vs. Bal.||Erik Bedard||1st||1 on, 1 out||6-4 loss||
|4/9 at Min.||Sidney Ponson||6th||1 on, 2 out||8-2 win||
|4/10 at Min.||Boof Bonser||1st||1 on, 2 out||10-1 win||
|4/14 at Oak.||Joe Blanton||5th||0 on, 0 out||4-3 win||
|4/17 vs. Cle.||Jake Westbrook||2nd||1 on, 2 out||10-3 win||
|4/18 vs. Cle.||Tom Mastny||6th||1 on, 2 out||9-2 win||
|4/19 vs. Cle.||Joe Borowski||9th||2 on, 2 out||8-6 win **||
|4/20 at Bos.||Curt Schilling||4th||0 on, 0 out||7-6 loss||
|4/20 at Bos.||Curt Schilling||5th||2 on, 2 out||7-6 loss||
|** -- A-Rod walk-off homer|
|NOTE: Albert Pujols, who set a Major League record with 14 April homers in 2006, accomplished the feat in 67 at-bats. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 13 homers in April 1997 for the AL record in 76 at-bats. A-Rod's 12 homers this month have come in 62 at-bats through April 20.
Ever wish you were around when Einstein was giving physics lectures, or when Edison screwed in the first bulb? Ever wonder what it would have been like to witness a man do things beyond anyone else's imagination?
You can stop wondering, because Alex Rodriguez is performing at that high, inconceivable, indelible level.
Is there a Nobel Prize for hitting home runs?
There probably isn't enough crow in the world to feed all the people who for two years had doubted Rodriguez and piled on each of his missteps. Who reveled in his failures and castigated him for his virtues -- seeking approval, having the perfect haircut, being a sharp dresser.
In somebody's eyes, even Rodriguez's latest two home runs may blur next to the ninth-inning opportunity he didn't cash. With the tying run on first and one out, Hideki Okajima retired Rodriguez -- on a line drive to leaping second baseman Alex Cora.
"You're hoping he can produce again, but ... come on," Pettitte said with a shake of his head. "How many times can a guy hit a home run?"
With the current Rodriguez model, that almost sounded like a trick question.
A hitter going good is said to be "unconscious." Well, Rodriguez is in a coma.
To a hot hitter, the ball ostensibly looks as big as a grapefruit. Rodriguez is swinging at pumpkins.
Capturing the essence of his player's historic spree, New York manager Joe Torre said, "Right now, Alex is in a good place."
Yes, and that place is Wonderland.
Have some perspective: Rodriguez's first home run of the evening was career homer No. 475, tying him with Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 23rd on the all-time list. The company of a couple of pretty good Hall of Famers -- except that both were 42 years old when they got to No. 475.
Rodriguez hit No. 475 at 31 ... and was only about a half-hour older when he added No. 476.
There was a lot more green to Fenway Park on Friday than the Green Monster. The home team was paying a rainout-delayed tribute to late Boston basketball legend Red Auerbach and the Celtics, so the usually Red Sox played in green jerseys and under green caps.
Earth Day comes late (on Sunday) this year. It should have been on Friday, with Fenway Park dipped in green. The lawn, the fence, the stands -- not to mention the $2 billion combined value represented by the two creative and diligent competitors, according to Forbes Magazine's latest assessment.
There even was at least one green Yankees cap, on the head of Colin Lama, who stood during batting practice in the box-seat section that corners the visitors' dugout and watched wide-eyed as the Yankees bustled to and fro.
Rodriguez was sitting on the bench at the opposite end of the dugout when he spotted him. He crossed the dugout to Colin, reaching for the ball in his hand.
While autographing the ball, Rodriguez made small talk with the 8-year-old.
"Are you from New York?"
"No," Colin said, "I live here. I just like the Yankees."
"We're from Boston," Colin's mom said a little later. "I have no idea how he became a Yankees fan."
We have a pretty good idea how he will remain a Yankees fan, every time he looks at Rodriguez's blue signature under the red stitching across that white ball.
Rodriguez has a better chance of getting those 130 home runs than does that ball of ever getting sold.