A-Rod hits 599th career homer

Updated: July 23, 2010, 5:27 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez moved to within one home run of a plateau inhabited by only six other players in baseball history, the 600 Club, when he belted homer No. 599 Thursday night off Kansas City Royals reliever Robinson Tejeda in the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez's blast, his 16th of the season, was a solo shot into the lower right-field seats on an 0-2 pitch that gave the Yankees a 6-4 lead en route to a 10-4 win. The blast moved him to seventh on the all-time home run list, behind Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.

Despite the thrill of the chase, Rodriguez reiterated his team-first philosophy. "Nothing is as exciting as what happened last November," he said, referring to winning the World Series. "Now I have a different perspective on things. Early in my career, I loved winning, but it was about accumulating numbers and hoping to get to the postseason. Now, it's about one goal, and along the way you hope to get big home runs. I'm in a different place right now, a much better place."

The last time Rodriguez was this close to a milestone home run, from 499 to 500, it took him nine games and 28 at-bats to reach it, a stretch in which he hit .107.

"My concern is he'll be answering questions about it every day and he'll start to press a little bit," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said after the game. "Only time will tell."

There were audible groans -- and even a few boos -- from the Stadium crowd when A-Rod failed to hit No. 600 in his final at-bat in the eighth. Still, Rodriguez doubled in a run before exiting for pinch-runner Ramiro Peña.

"It was certainly a fun at-bat," Rodriguez said. "The fans really got into it. I saw all the lightbulbs go off. I actually had to take the first pitch to refocus my eyes."

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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