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A-Rod's 39th HR lets Rangers walk off winners

8/17/2002

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez refuses to be distracted while he is on the field.

Rodriguez hit his 39th homer with one out in the bottom of the
ninth inning to finish a 4-for-4 night, giving the Texas Rangers a 6-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.

That came on the same day that baseball players set an Aug. 30
strike date. And Rodriguez, the sport's highest-paid player, stands
to lose the most if there is a work stoppage.

"Like I alluded to before, once the game starts, game on,'' Rodriguez said. ``You have to deal with outside distractions. I've had to do that my whole career. That kind of stuff really doesn't bother me.''

Rodriguez hit an 0-1 pitch off Kelvim Escobar (5-7) that just
cleared the wall out of the reach of right-fielder DeWayne Wise's
desperate attempt to catch it. A-Rod, who also had a pair of RBI
singles, leads the majors with 103 RBI.

``A-Rod can hit a pitch like that. I can't believe it,'' Escobar said. ``I still can't believe that ball got out of the park. If I made a mistake, I would be mad at myself. But he hit a pretty good pitch.''

While Rodriguez insists the money doesn't matter to him, he
knows it's a big issue for others. He is in the second year of a
record $252 million, 10-year contract he signed after leaving
Seattle as a free agent.

``I've always found for me that being between the lines is my escape,'' said Rodriguez, who wholeheartedly supports the union. ``That is where I can relax, a place I can't be reached, no cell phones, no interviews. The game on the field has always been my tranquility.''

Danny Kolb (3-1) pitched the final two innings for the win.
Kolb's first win came July 27 when Rodriguez hit a grand-slam in
the 10th inning for a 10-6 win over Anaheim on the shortstop's 27th
birthday.

Kolb started the season on the 60-day disabled list with a torn
rotator cuff, and wasn't activated until July 16.

``He threw real well. He's given us good outings almost every time out since he came back,'' said Rangers manager Jerry Narron. ``All of us appreciate how hard he has worked, and it's showing. It's paying off.''

Texas, which trailed 3-0 early, tied the game at 5 in the
seventh after an RBI single by Rodriguez and an error by left
fielder Shannon Stewart.

Reliever Mark Hendrickson hit Frank Catalanotto, the only batter he faced, on the right hand to start the inning. Catalanotto has a broken bone and will be out 4-to-6 weeks.

Kevin Mench greeted Scott Cassidy with a single and Rodriguez
then singled to left. Pinch-runner Ruben Rivera scored and Mench
ran home after Stewart overran the ball.

Stewart had thrown Mench out at the plate for the third out in the fifth.

Catalanotto doubled and scored on Rodriguez's RBI single to get
the Rangers within 4-2 before Mench was thrown out. Mench, who was
hit by a pitch, tried to score on Rafael Palmeiro's flyball but
couldn't get around catcher Ken Huckaby blocking the plate.

Toronto starter Roy Halladay allowed three runs and six hits in
six innings. He is 14-5 overall, 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA in eight
starts since pitching in the All-Star Game.

Kenny Rogers, who retired the first 21 Cleveland batters in his last start a week earlier, allowed five runs and 10 hits in seven innings.

Huckaby snapped an 0-for-12 slump with a leadoff single in the
seventh and scored on Orlando Hudson's groundout to put the Jays
ahead 5-3.

Toronto led 3-0 after scoring with two outs in the third when
Josh Phelps had a two-run single and Vernon Wells followed with an
RBI single.

Wells has 31 RBI his last 38 games, including 19 his last 17
road games.

The Blue Jays went ahead 4-1 in the fifth on an untraditional
double play grounder. Second baseman Michael Young fielded Phelps'
slow roller and threw to first when runner Chris Woodward stopped
in the baseline. Hudson scored while Woodward was caught in a
rundown.

Rodriguez had a leadoff single in the fourth and scored on Ivan Rodriguez's single. Ivan Rodriguez led off the sixth with a double and scored on Herbert Perry's single.

Game notes
RHP John Rocker, on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, is having a nerve test Monday and is likely done for the season. ... The Rangers began a stretch of 22 of 23 games against AL East teams. The only non-AL East opponent will be the Houston Astros on Labor Day in the makeup of an interleague game rained out in June. ... Halladay is 0-3 in eight career appearances (seven starts) against Texas.