Because of his past postseason failures, A-Rod will be under the microscope like no one else this October. Here, we’ll be watching his every move, either until the playoffs end, or until he gives us enough reason to stop.
Alex Rodriguez batted four times last night, each time with two outs and a man on base. In three of the four at-bats, that runner was in scoring position. Only A-Rod could find himself in this position four times, in the playoffs, with the world watching to see if he’ll fail yet again in October. Because, if we’ve learned anything from his last four postseasons in New York, it’s that not only does A-Rod inevitably find himself in these situations, he does inevitably find a way to fail. But not last night.
In the context of the game, A-Rod’s single in the fifth to drive in Derek Jeter was important but ultimately not crucial; it gave them a 4–2 lead, but they’d go on to win by five, and the home runs from Jeter and Hideki Matsui are what will ultimately stand out. But for A-Rod, the hit was immensely important. The frustration that was starting to build when he struck out to end the third died down. He wouldn’t have to worry about being booed, at least not last night, and probably not Friday either. He became just another player, one who sometimes gets clutch hits, and sometimes doesn’t.
That’s really all A-Rod needs to be. Of course, it would be great if he hits a walk-off homer to win the seventh game of the World Series. But the Yankees mostly just need him to be his usual self, and honestly, they’ll survive as long as he’s not a flat-out liability in the clean-up spot. His RBI single in the seventh (which just missed being a home run) was just the icing on the cake, but no run is insignificant in the playoffs, and 2–4 with two RBI looks a lot better the next morning than 1–4 with one RBI. A-Rod hit well enough last night that we’re not even worried that Mark Teixeira went 0–4 and hit into a double-play. Could Mark Teixeira be the new A-Rod? We doubt it. He is a slow starter, after all.