Major Leagues: A-Rod homers in return as Yankees win
By David Ginsburg
BALTIMORE ó Amid all the chatter about his steroid use, hip injury, Madonna and big-money contract, one thing about Alex Rodriguez is indisputable: his ability to play the game of baseball at the absolute highest level.
Rodriguez trumpeted his return to the Yankees by hitting a three-run homer on the first pitch of his late-starting season, CC Sabathia pitched a four-hitter and New York ended a five-game losing streak by defeating the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 Friday night.
“It was awesome,” Rodriguez said. “It was just nice to get to the ballpark, give the guys a hug and do what I do best.”
Tormented by stories of involvement with steroids and slowed by hip surgery, Rodriguez finally turned his attention toward playing baseball when he stepped to the plate in the first inning against Jeremy Guthrie (2-3).
As a dozen fans waved plastic foam syringes a few rows behind the plate, A-Rod stepped into a fastball and sent it soaring into the left-field seats. It was his 554th career home run, and for sheer theater, it just might have been in the Top 10.
“What a hitter. What a player,” Guthrie said. “To come off the DL like that, I throw that fastball on the black inside, and he just takes it for a home run. … He stepped up in the big moment right there, center stage, and does what he does best.”
After taking a stroll around the bases, Rodriguez was mobbed.
“I feel like I’m back with my family,” he said.
The shot sure came at the right time for the Yankees, whose five-game skid was their longest under second-year manager Joe Girardi. During that losing streak, New York went 6 for 43 with runners in scoring position.
“I think you’re always hoping that every time he comes up he hits a home run. You know, that’s the impact he has,” Girardi said. “Your concern when a guy first comes back is his timing, but he was ready.”
Rodriguez struck out in the third and fifth innings against Guthrie, then grounded out against Bob McCrory in the seventh to finish 1-for-4. But that one hit was a doozy; while A-Rod was gone, New York third basemen hit a combined .202 with no homers and 10 RBIs over 28 games.