But in the ninth inning Sunday night, Rodriguez smashed a game-winning double deep into left field. He calls it the biggest hit of his career, and the Yankees won 7 to 4.
Yes, with one swing of the bat, the highest-paid baseball player, frequently lambasted in the press, achieved what one baseball commentator called "total redemption." His strikeouts in other clutch situations will be forgotten. His rough-and-tumble playing tactics, his shenanigans off the field will pale.
His swat left the Yankees with a commanding lead of 3 games to 1 over last year's champs, the Philadelphia Phillies. Now, for the Phillies to win, they will need Rocky Balboa type of theatrics because they would need to win every game left.
They will give it their best on Monday night when Phillies ace Cliff Lee starts against A.J. Burnett, another high-priced acquisition by the Yankees. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel promises a battle.
"We may be down, but we're still breathing," he said in a press conference after Game 4.
The Phillies would be breathing easier if they had not made a mistake in the top of the ninth inning, before Rodriguez came up. With the scored tied and with two outs, Phillies closer Brad Lidge had two strikes on Yankee left fielder Johnny Damon. But after fouling off pitch after pitch, Damon managed to hit a single. Then, with Mark Teixeira at the plate, the Phillies went into an overshift, playing him to pull the ball.
Damon sprinted for second base, beating the throw. And he got up and ran to third because the catcher, who was supposed to be covering that bag, had not run down the line. "I'm just glad when I started running, I still had some of my young legs behind me," Damon joked afterward in a press conference.
After Damon got to third base, Lidge hit Teixeira with a pitch, bringing up A-Rod.
Manuel, the Phillies manager, says he is not totally surprised the team lost: "We've blown 22 games from the seventh inning on or something this year."
This was actually the second consecutive night when Rodriguez's bat made a big difference in the game. On Saturday night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, it was a home run by A-Rod that ignited the team in its 8-to-5 victory.
Although Damon, batting .294, has had an excellent World Series, he says it is A-Rod who has gotten the team this far.
"He's the reason we're sitting here and we're in Philadelphia right now," Damon said. "I feel like without him who knows where our road show would have stopped."
Rodriguez started off poorly against the Phillies. Even after Sunday night's heroics, he is hitting only .143 in the World Series. Now, he says, he is trying to simplify his game. "I'm just trying to swing at strikes," he says.
"It's kind of like little brother beating up the big brother," he says.
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