10/10/09 6:00 PM ET
A-Rod letting results come to him
Revitalized star finds playoff success with a cool approach
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Fifteen of Rodriguez's 30 home runs in 2009 either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead, but it may wind up being his ninth-inning shot off the Twins' Joe Nathan in Game 2 of the American League Division Series that will be among the most memorable.
"Certainly, you've got to put that one right at the top," Rodriguez said. "It was definitely a very special feeling, off a very good pitcher, at a time when we really needed it."
New York was down to its final three outs when Rodriguez clubbed a two-run shot into the right-field bullpen at Yankee Stadium, tying the game at 3. Mark Teixeira played the hero in the 11th, slugging the winning blast just over the left-field wall to complete a wild finish.
Reflecting briefly in a hallway outside the Yankees' clubhouse at the Metrodome on Saturday, Rodriguez called the 4-3 win "an amazing game."
"You think about so many things that happened -- [reliever Dave] Robertson getting out of that jam with the bases loaded and nobody out, and a lot of great plays on both ends," Rodriguez said. "We were fortunate to be on the winning end.
"That's what home-field advantage does for you. Last night was a classic example of [how] 103 games makes a difference. Being the last to hit was a huge advantage for us."
Yet for Rodriguez, it has been more of the same, as he has found a way to carry his success into the playoffs. Perhaps it was a good omen that Rodriguez had his biggest day of the regular season last Sunday in the season finale, when he drove in seven runs and homered twice -- in one inning -- against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
|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|
That set the tone for things to come, as the playoff goat of old has seemed to disappear in a season when Rodriguez has talked about taking "self-inventory" and giving himself a "fresh start."
"It's hard to bunch them all together," Rodriguez said. "I just know that, like that first swing I had in Baltimore, that helped me carry on some momentum for the rest of the year. Like that hit [in Game 1], it just naturally helps you carry on and build some confidence. The team has been playing well, too, which helps."
Through the Yankees' first two ALDS games against the Twins, Rodriguez has gone 4-for-8 with two runs scored, a home run and five RBIs. It's premature to begin calling A-Rod "Mr. October," but he does already have the endorsement of Reggie Jackson, who predicted a big postseason in 2009. So far, so good.
Big man in the Bronx
"I'm having fun," Rodriguez said. "I think the most important thing is for me to go out, be in the mix somehow and have good at-bats. I'll keep doing what I'm doing and not really worry about results."
That is, except for the ultimate result, which the Yankees can take another significant step toward achieving on Sunday at the Metrodome.
Only five members of the 2004 Yankees -- the last Bombers club to advance past the first round -- remain on the roster, with Rodriguez joining Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Mariano Rivera.
That club felt plenty comfortable with a 3-0 lead over the Red Sox in the AL Championship Series but saw it unravel, which is a good reminder if anyone in a Yankees uniform arrived in Minnesota believing that this series is already in the bag.
"This thing is nowhere near being over," Rodriguez said. "It takes three games to win, and we only have two. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we know these guys are going to come out with a lot of intensity. The fans are going to be ready, and we should be up for the challenge."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.