Mounting pressure slows A-Rod's bat
One home run shy of 500, Yankees third baseman hits bump
BALTIMORE -- Yankees manager Joe Torre said that Monday's off-day couldn't come at a better time for third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has been under much pressure in recent days, especially this weekend, as he needed just one homer to reach 500 for his career while the Yankees played in Baltimore. But Rodriguez's recent slump continued, as he went 0-for-8 with five walks in the series. He's now in the midst of a 2-for-19 slide.
"He just needs this day off probably more than anybody else, aside from guys nursing sore bodies," Torre said after Sunday's 10-6 victory over the Orioles. "I think with Alex, just the emotional stuff that's been going on with him [is tough]."
Rodriguez left before speaking with the media.
Torre mentioned a few times during the series that the pressure of the milestone could be distracting to Rodriguez, who went just 3-for-22 on the Yankees' road trip.
"It would help everybody concerned to get this thing over with," Torre said before Sunday's game. "He's been increasing his [strike] zone for the last few days. It's human. When you look at all the things he's done, you put human on the back burner because he's seemed so robotic at times."
Rodriguez never came close to hitting his 500th home run in the series. He had one RBI and one run scored as the Orioles tried hard not to give him anything to hit.
Rodriguez had some chances in Sunday's game, however, coming to bat with the bases loaded in the first and second innings and with runners on first and third in the eighth, but he finished 0-for-2 with three walks, one of which was intentional. He also drove in one run on a second-inning groundout.
The large number of Yankees fans who descended upon Oriole Park at Camden Yards in each of the three games was certainly hopeful to see some history. Countless flashbulbs went off for each pitch of each Rodriguez at-bat on Friday and Saturday night, while several went off during Sunday afternoon's game.
"Those flashbulbs go off, and I know he's not supposed to be looking there, but you can still see it and sense it," Torre said. "He doesn't complain about it."
The crowd also roared each time Rodriguez came to bat and on nearly every pitch, almost trying to will the milestone to take place.
Rodriguez will become the 22nd player in Major League history to reach 500 home runs and only the third player to do it while with the Yankees, joining Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle in that exclusive group.
In addition, Rodriguez will become the youngest player to hit 500 homers. He turned 32 on Friday, and he'll break a record held by Jimmie Foxx, who reached 500 at the age of 32 years, 338 days.
However, Rodriguez now gets a chance to hit a milestone home run at home. He hit the first homer of his career at home while playing for the Seattle Mariners, but Nos. 100, 200, 300 and 400 all came on the road.
The Yankees will get back to work on Tuesday in the opener of a six-game homestand. The Royals will come to town after the White Sox leave.
"You always want to see someone do it at home," said outfielder Johnny Damon. "Unfortunately, we could have used a home run last night or the night before, but I can't wait to see him break it at home."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.