Late Tuesday night, Alex Rodriguez spoke about doing things such as stealing a base or making a key defensive play to help the Yankees win. He also admitted that his hitting had stunk this year and vowed that the numbers and home runs he had crushed in previous years would return.
“I was excited because I meant it,” Rodriguez said after hitting two long home runs in an 8-3 victory over the Royals. “I said it with conviction not because it sounded good but because I felt it.”
Rodriguez began his day taking extra batting practice and then followed up the extra work by generating the kind of power he had been missing despite the positive outlook about his health.
“That’s a big part of the game,” Rodriguez said. “But I understand what my bread and butter is — make big noise at the plate.”
The big noise was the explosiveness that Rodriguez had lacked through a majority of his 160 at-bats so far, the ones that turned potential home runs into warning track fly balls such as Sunday against Cincinnati.
Still, manager Joe Girardi reiterated his confidence and hitting coach Kevin Long did the same. Girardi stated before the game that Rodriguez was capable of going on a big run and the sound of those home runs made it seem possible.
“When he gets hot, he hits a lot of home runs,” Derek Jeter said. “He’s done that his whole career.”
“For Alex to go out and do it two at-bats in a row, people may stop asking where the power is because we see it every day in [batting practice],” Girardi said. “There’s not a lack of power there. We’ve seen him hit balls and it’s pretty incredible. I don’t know how many people watched his BP in Toronto, but he was playing pepper with the people eating lunch in center field out there. So the power is there.”
He had not homered in 52 at-bats before last night and had just two in his previous 103 at-bats before stepping in against rookie Will Smith.
“He knew he was going to get another one sometime,” Girardi said. “He’s not used to going 52 at-bats and you don’t have to answer the questions anymore. That’s the good thing about it because people are going to ask, where’s the power, where’s the power? For a player, they just want to go out and do their thing and not have to answer questions. From that standpoint it’s good for him.”
A few minutes later, the drought ended when he turned on a 2-2 fastball, sending it well over the left field wall for a 3-0 lead. For an encore, Rodriguez changed directions on his next home run swing, generating enough force on a 3-1 fastball to send it well over the center field wall.
“I just felt I was getting good pitches to hit,” Rodriguez said. “The last two or three days, I was taking a lot of swings. I thought today I put myself to get in a position to take my A swing.”
It was Rodriguez’s 60th career multiple home run game and first since May 17, 2011 at Tampa Bay. It also was his first multiple home run game at home since Sept. 24, 2010 against the Red Sox when he inched closer to his 13th straight 30-home run season.?
Since the end of 2010, Rodriguez has 23 home runs and 59 extra-base hits — numbers caused by injuries, bad luck and possibly diminished power.??
Last night, Rodriguez turned the power back on against a pitcher making his major league debut after allowing 65 hits in 51 2/3 innings against Pacific Coast League hitters. Whether he can do it more often than once every 52 at-bats and against more experienced pitching is something Yankee fans will be curious about throughout the rest of the season.
“Less is more, but my body feels really good, really explosive,” Rodriguez said. “This is the best I’ve felt in years.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.