10/07/09 11:40 PM ET
'Little things' help A-Rod solve October
Postseason pushover turns focus to Yanks after snapping hex
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Rodriguez hit two singles with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, including a key two-out hit in the fifth inning that gave the Yankees a two-run lead and knocked Twins starter Brian Duensing out of Game 1 of the American League Division Series -- a 7-2 New York victory.
"It just feels good to contribute and do the little things," Rodriguez said. "That's what we've been trying to talk about all year, so it definitely felt good not trying to do too much and getting a big hit."
Dating back to Game 4 of the 2004 AL Championship Series, Rodriguez had come to bat with 38 runners on base over a span of 61 postseason at-bats. He stranded every one of them, going 0-for-29 with runners on base. And his only RBI during that span came on a solo home run in Game 4 of the 2007 ALDS, with the Yankees trailing the Indians, 6-2.
The numbers were staggering from every angle. From his third at-bat of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS through his second at-bat of Wednesday's game against the Twins, for example, Rodriguez was 8-for-61 (.131) in postseason play, with one RBI. He had 19 strikeouts and was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
|Gm. 1||NYY 7, MIN 2||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 2||NYY 4, MIN 3 (11)||Wrap||Video|
|Gm. 3||NYY 4, MIN 1||Wrap||Video|
But the Yankees ignored those numbers leading up to this series, instead focusing on Rodriguez's .344 average this September and October.
"We had talked about that we liked where Alex was at this time of the year -- physically, mentally, he finished up strong, had a great month of September," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's important."
Though Rodriguez flied out in his first at-bat with a runner in scoring position on Wednesday, he received a quick chance for redemption in the fifth. With Derek Jeter on first base and two outs, Rodriguez laced a Duensing fastball into left field for a single, padding what had been a one-run Yankees lead.
Two innings later, Rodriguez smacked a Jon Rauch curveball into right field, plating Jeter once again. And so on a night in which Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira went a combined 1-for-8 in front of him, Rodriguez managed to give the middle of Girardi's lineup a healthy boost.
"Sometimes, you're going to swing the bat well and you're not going to get hits," Jeter said. "He seemed like he was pretty comfortable all year."
"He seemed relaxed," catcher Jorge Posada said. "He seemed focused out there."
Rodriguez, as has been his custom this year, deflected talk of individual achievements every which way he could. Already, Rodriguez has enjoyed a remarkably successful season, considering the time he missed due to right hip surgery. A-Rod finished the season at .286 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, and he now has a chance to extend that run into late October.
Rodriguez just doesn't want to talk about it much.
"Everyone keeps focusing on personal [things], but this is about our team," Rodriguez said. "Tonight was another great team effort. It certainly felt good to get that hit out of the way, but CC [Sabathia] and the bullpen did a fantastic job and the guys swung the bats well."
Rather than delve more thoroughly into his 2-for-4 effort, Rodriguez left the chatter to his teammates -- many of the same teammates who unsuccessfully tried to pick up his slack in the 2005, '06 and '07 Division Series, along with the latter half of the '04 ALCS.
As they have all season, the Yankees harped on Rodriguez's newly relaxed air, which he has carried with him since rejoining the team in May. This did not seem like a man with a $275 million weight on his shoulders.
Instead, it seemed like the Rodriguez the Yankees have missed.
"I think a lot of times, people read a little too much into final statistics," Jeter said. "All you can do is go up there and swing the bat, hopefully hit the ball hard. You can't really guide it."
But you can drive it.
"He had a big game today," Jeter said. "Expect him to continue it."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.