Bronx, NY – As the game between the New York Yankees (67-40) and the Toronto Blue Jays (56-52) the 47,659 in attendance started to encourage and cheer on the Yankee third baseman and All-Star Alex Rodriguez. In hopes that the positive energy would inspire the slugger to hit his 600th career home run, in the Wednesday matinee affair in the Bronx.
The Yankee captain and shortstop Derek Jeter set the stage by driving a single to left field. With two outs in the inning the crowd started to chant, “Let’s go A-Rod” in the hopes of witnessing a milestone moment. The third baseman strode to the plate digging into the batter’s box, and was greeted with two fastballs outside the strike zone. Finally the third fastball found the strike zone as the slugger lifted it into Monument Park for a monumental milestone moment. That homer also gave the New York Yankees a 2-0 lead over the Blue Jays.
“It is a special number to be able to reach 600 homers for my career,” Rodriguez said after the game. “I am really proud to have been able to reach this milestone and it is something that I am going to treasure.”
Rodriguez seems to like August 4th for his milestone moments as three years ago today, he was able to lift his 500th career home run in similar circumstances, today was different because it was a different team and because Rodriguez the player is a different person.
“Earlier on in my career I would do a lot of talking and my play would not match that,” the third baseman said. “Now I am really trying to walk the walk and talk the talk. So much has changed like the way I play the game and go about my business. I try to do the little things more that help the team win games and win a World Series. There is no personal achievement that compares to winning a World Series.
The 2-0 lead was enough for starting pitcher Phil Hughes (13-4) to help him go on and pitch brilliantly in spite of a head cold. The righty went five and one-thirds innings giving up four hits and striking out five batters. For Hughes today must have felt like déjà vu, as the last time he was on the mound was when Rodriguez hit career home run 500 three years ago.
“It feels like something great is always happening with this team,” Hughes said after the game. “Especially with all of these great players on the team, you are expecting something great to happen.”
When asked about the slugger’s monumental homer Hughes had this to say, “It is nice for Alex to get the weight off of his shoulders and to get the home run at home.” Of his performance with the head cold the righty had this to say, “I didn’t feel great today but I was able to keep their guys off base and fortunately we were able to get the win.”
Rodriguez who dreamed of playing in New York one day and had one part of his life growing up in the city had a lot of compliments of the fans and making history at home. “There is nothing more special than to be able to hit a home run here in New York. “It really makes you wish that ‘The Boss’ George Steinbrenner was around, because he loved big moments like this.” On the fan support throughout the quest he said, “The fans have been remarkable throughout this whole thing. I kept them waiting quite a while and they were just remarkable and so patient towards me throughout. I am really thankful for their support.”
It seemed as if the weight was off the Yankees as well as they were able to add on run support as first baseman Mark Teixeira, went 2-for-3 in today’s game and drove in three runs. Also having a good day at the plate was the captain Derek Jeter collecting a season-high four hits, his most in a game since 7/10/09 versus the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim. Both players helped to lead the Yankees to the 5-1 win and snapping their season-high-tying three game losing streak, while also avoiding a sweep against Toronto.
Jeter had a conversation with Rodriguez that went a long way into the monumental homer. Rodriguez shared the story after the game. “Jeter was telling me to just get a base hit, to drive someone in, even try laying down a bunt. But after I got the home run he said to forget about bunting.”
The Captain had this to say of his teammate’s moment, “He got a good pitch to hit and he was able to do what he’s done 600 times already. He’s got a long career ahead of him and a lot of great moments to come.”
In what was a great moment for both the Yankees and one lucky security guard, who was able to grab the milestone baseball. The young man who was later identified as Frankie Babilonia, kept the ball safe and gave it to the All-Star after the game. “I feel blessed that one of our guys was able to get the ball. It is very generous of him to give it to me and I am sure I will do something special with it.”
Babilonia, who is in his second season with the Yankees as a part of the security staff, has been stationed in center field for most of the season. When asked where this moment would rank he said, “This is going to be ranked at the top of my list. I am going to be able to tell my kids that I was able to be a part of Alex Rodriguez’s milestone moment is awesome.” The guard who received an autographed bat from Rodriguez was even able to take a picture with the slugger after the game. “I am sure my phone is blowing up right now.” Frankie who told numerous jokes to the journalist afterward said, “I just hope there aren’t too many people knocking at my door right now.”
For the Blue Jays were kept off the board until the top of the fourth inning. Outfielder Jose Bautista got the inning going with a single to left field. Three batters later Lyle Overbay hit a double (12) off the right field wall, which plated Bautista and plated the lone Toronto run. Starter Shaun Marcum (10-5) went six innings gave up eight hits, five runs, one while, while striking out five batters.
“Well overall our guys played good.” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said after the game. “The Yankees are a tough team. You always want to take the last one, but we’ll take what we can.”
After a rare off day on Thursday, the New York Yankees look to continue their winning ways. New York opens up a huge four game set against the Boston Red Sox to close out this week. Game one will take place on Friday at 7:05 p.m. as Javier Vazquez (9-7, 4.61 ERA) takes on Clay Buchholz (11-5, 2.59 ERA).
“We felt that it was important that we won today,” manager Joe Girardi said after the game. “We have an important series coming up so it was good to get that positive momentum going our way.”