October 19, 2009 – John Harper
ANAHEIM – Never mind that Angels closer Brian Fuentes threw one of the worst 0-2 pitches in baseball history, right in Alex Rodriguez‘s danger zone, practically inviting the Bombers’ slugger to pop one into Yankee Stadium‘s short right-field porch.
A-Rod still had to hit it, and maybe the most telling part of his October revival is that it didn’t seem like such a surprise when he did just that in the 11th inning Saturday night, delivering his third game-tying home run of this postseason, and the second one that saved the Yankees from defeat.
Actually, I’m sure there were plenty of Yankee fans who were thinking A-Rod’s magic dust was wearing off, that he’d chase a pitch, strike out against Fuentes, and go back to being the shrinking A-Rod of Octobers past.
He can’t continue to deliver huge hits practically on command – he flew out to center with the bases loaded in the 12th inning Saturday night, mostly because Ervin Santana made a good pitch, getting the ball in far enough to keep the Yankees’ slugger from extending his arms – but this is no fluke, folks.
Given A-Rod’s history of failure in the postseason, it may be hard to believe that he, with all eight of his RBI coming on hits that have either tied the score or put the Yankees ahead, is the single biggest reason the Bombers are 5-0 in the 2009 playoffs and looking like a lock to make the World Series. Yet at this point, it’s even harder to imagine that he is going to suddenly start flailing at sliders or jamming himself on fastballs as he has done in the past when he was consumed with wanting to be the new Mr. October.
It doesn’t mean that this was inevitable. But once A-Rod got that first RBI single in Game 1 against the Twins, he had the confidence to reinforce his regular-season mindset, and suddenly he’s the difference-maker in October that the Yankees thought they were getting five years ago.
A championship would make it worth the wait.
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