- Andrew Marchand, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- It was the CliffsNotes version of the 2009 Alex Rodriguez Story.
First he was disrespected, then he was elated. On Friday night, it was condensed into a 10-minute window in front of 45,195.
It ended with A-Rod, his arm raised at first base, screaming after he nailed the go-ahead seventh-inning grand slam that, if it weren't so humid, would have felt as if it were torn out of the October 2009 storybook.
After struggling to go deep all season, it left A-Rod not so much pounding his chest but acknowledging the position he holds on the 2010 Yankees.
"That is why I hit fourth," Rodriguez said after an 8-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins in a game that was much more exciting than the final score indicates.
It was Rodriguez's 587th homer, moving him alone into seventh on the all-time list as Frank Robinson watches another PED man outdistance him. Regardless of the extra stuff with A-Rod -- and there is always extra stuff with A-Rod, as you know -- this was his night and his alone.
It started with disrespect, which is seemingly how all of A-Rod's melodramas begin. In the seventh inning, with the Twins up a run, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire -- perhaps with 2009 October amnesia, forgetting Joe Nathan versus A-Rod in ALDS Game 2 -- decided to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira to load the bases for A-Rod and set up a double play.
"In that situation, it's kind of like pick your poison," Gardenhire said.
But for a prideful athlete like Rodriguez, it was a slap in the face, even if he wouldn't admit it afterward.
"It was a numbers game," Rodriguez said. "They were looking for a two-ball."
It was not only the situation, but whom Gardenhire brought in. In six previous at-bats, A-Rod had three homers against Matt Guerrier.
"We were aware of that," Gardenhire said.
Still, A-Rod entered last night with a measly three homers on the season. The Yankees, from Joe Girardi to Brian Cashman, had said they weren't worried about it. And though the Rays and the Mets loaded the bases to face A-Rod last season, this one felt a little different. It felt as if this might be a team signaling that Rodriguez is no longer as feared as he once was.
Teixeira did have two hits entering his seventh-inning at-bat, but he began Friday at under .200. Plus, there was the Rodriguez-Guerrier history that Gardenhire chose to stare down.
It was history A-Rod claimed to be unaware of. As for Guerrier, he was well aware.
"I knew he has good numbers, so I said, 'It is my turn to get him out,'" Guerrier said.<.p>
A-Rod nearly made Gardenhire pay right away. Against Guerrier, A-Rod just missed a double down the third-base line. He was a little out in front and pushed it just wide of the bag.
On the next pitch, a 91 mph fastball, there would be no doubt. A-Rod sent it high into the thick May air. The crowd rose, and redemption would land in the left-field seats.
A-Rod streamed around the bases. When he reached first, he put up his fist up and let out a scream. This was not your average home run.
"I was excited," Rodriguez said.
When he returned to the dugout, the 45,195 were on their feet and loud. Rodriguez put his helmet away, hopped up the steps of the Yankees dugout. He acknowledged the crowd.
From disrespect to elation. Fittingly, it all occurred a few days after Yogi Berra's 85th birthday, because it was like 2009 all over again.
Alex Rodriguez laughs last in the grand scheme of things, just like in 2009.