Night-and-Day Rod: '09 Alex at his best
Homers in third straight game; has five dingers in playoffs
ANAHEIM -- At some point in the past two weeks, the superlatives lost their meaning. It now goes without saying that Alex Rodriguez has reached some other postseason dimension. Doubt if you must, but Rodriguez has proven it time and again and again. And again.
Here's the latest daily dose of proof: Rodriguez homered for the third consecutive postseason game on Tuesday, drilling a fifth-inning Jason Bulger pitch over the left-field wall to increase the Yankees' lead to five runs in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels -- a game New York won, 10-1.
Now, the Yankees must ride Rodriguez's hot bat to one more postseason win, with nothing short of a World Series berth as a reward.
"The game slows down for you, no doubt about it," Rodriguez said. "You feel like you want to see the ball and hit it hard and not try to do too much."
Rodriguez's homer was his fifth of this postseason, tying him for second most in Yankees history in a single postseason behind Bernie Williams, who hit six in 1996. Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran share the Major League record with eight each in 2002 and '04, respectively. B.J. Upton and Troy Glaus own the AL record with seven apiece, set in 2008 and '02.
Reggie Jackson, who holds the all-time record for home runs in a World Series with five, likened his famous power binge to the one Rodriguez is currently enjoying. But Jackson also said that this has been a long time coming for Rodriguez, one of the finest talents of a generation who has, for whatever reason, never consistently been able to translate his regular-season successes into October.
"It's maybe out of the ordinary because it's postseason play and he hasn't been good," Jackson said. "But what he's doing now -- no one's surprised. You watch it. You enjoy it."
The scene has now been set time and again. Rodriguez, who had shown an utter inability to hit in postseason play since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, now appears to be making up for lost time. Since going deep twice in a three-game AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, Rodriguez has bashed three homers in the first four games of this ALCS.
His latest homer was a two-run shot off Bulger, who entered the game in relief of lefty Scott Kazmir specifically to face Rodriguez. But the Angels already knew what Rodriguez was capable of doing long before that.
"He did something a little different," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I think he's shorter with his swing. He's a lot more patient. He looks different at the plate. He definitely wants it. You can tell by the way he's swinging. That guy is a bad guy, man. I wish he was on my team."
Perhaps most amazingly, after going 15 consecutive postseason games dating back to 2004 without an RBI, Rodriguez has now driven in a run in eight straight October contests dating back to the final game of the 2007 ALDS. That streak ties the record shared by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who has driven in runs in all eight of his team's games this postseason.
Howard is hitting .379 this postseason with two homers and 14 RBIs. Rodriguez, through seven games, clocks in at .407 with five homers and 11 RBIs.
Swingin' fine in '09
"He looks comfortable, man," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Sometimes, if you get a hit here or get a hit there, your confidence goes up. I'm not saying he lacks confidence, but he looks right now like it's a big help."
And his production has been a major boost for the Yankees, who now stand within one victory of a World Series berth despite receiving little offensive production from Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher or Hideki Matsui. Rodriguez will look to keep his homer and RBI streaks alive in Game 5 against Angels starter John Lackey, who has limited him to nine hits over 51 career at-bats.
Then again, the past seems to matter little for Rodriguez, who is on one of the most productive streaks of his Major League career.
"When I grow up, I want to be like Alex Rodriguez," Swisher said. "I don't know how it feels, but it's got to feel like it's a beach ball coming in. He's just doing a tremendous job. There have been so many people who have played this game, but I don't know how many can do what he's doing now."
"I think he's proven that he's probably the best player in the big leagues," catcher Jorge Posada said.
Consider also that Rodriguez has reached this threshold of postseason immortality despite playing in only seven games. The Yankees are guaranteed at least another three games this postseason. And if they make the World Series, which they are on course to do, they will play at least five more games before their season is through.
There is plenty more time for Rodriguez to rewrite the history books and to rewrite his forgettable postseason past.
"I will say that in other postseasons I failed, and sometimes I failed miserably," Rodriguez said. "It certainly feels good to come through for my team and help the team win."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.