When Alex Rodriguez flies the other team dies…eventually. That seems to be the formula of the 2009 playoffs.
Prior to the 2009 postseason, Rodriguez struggled immensely at the plate when it mattered most. The three-time regular season Most Valuable Player seemingly could not hit anything after Game Three of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
In that game, the Yankees put a beat down on the Boston Red Sox 19-8, but fell apart in the rest of the series. The Yankees ended up blowing a three games-to-none lead to the Red Sox with Rodriguez finishing 8-for-31 with six strikeouts and a batting average of .258.
And his sudden struggles didn’t stop there.
In 2005, the Yankees were forced to an early exit by the same team they are facing in the ALCS this year, the Los Angeles Angels. In the ’05 ALDS, A-Rod batted .133, going just 2-for-15 with a double and five strikeouts.
And that was coming off his second MVP season. Talk about going from hero to goat.
In 2006 it just got worse for number 13, as he only had one hit in the 2006 ALDS against the Detroit Tigers. He went 1-for-14, which translates to a .071 average with four more strikeouts and no runs scored.
The postseason just didn’t seem fit for A-Rod after 2006.
But in the 2007 regular season, Rodriguez put the Yankees on his back, hitting 54 home runs, knocking in 156 runs, and batting .314. He had arguably the best season of his life, basically carried the Yankees to the playoffs, and even hit his 500th career home run on Aug. 4.
The type of year he had in ’07 was unreal, but could he finally break out of his postseason slide?
Well, yes and no.
He went 4-for-15 with a home run and three walks, but it was too little too late. The Yankees again just did not have enough gas to drive any further than the first round, as the Cleveland Indians eliminated them from the postseason.
But here we are in 2009 and Rodriguez seems to have forgotten the past.
Against the Twins, A-Rod batted .455 with two homers and six RBI. Both of his ALDS home runs tied the game in the seventh inning or later, proving that he can in fact come up big when it matters most.
Many fans and critics thought he would never be able to be a clutch hitter, but he proved them wrong and silenced everyone in the ALDS.
And he just kept going once the ALCS began.
It’s been only two games so far, but Rodriguez has once again showcased his clutch and timely hitting. In the first inning of Game One of the ALCS Friday night, he knocked in the first of the four Yankee runs in the game with a sacrifice fly.
Then yesterday night, A-Rod smacked a wall-scraping, solo home run to right field with the Yankees down 3-2 in the bottom of the 11th inning, another instance when he tied the game in a clutch situation.
Alexander the goat has become Alexander the Great.
And it’s not like Rodriguez’s home runs are coming off bad pitching. His first home run in Game Two of the ALDS came off Twins’ closer Joe Nathan, who recorded 47 saves during the regular season. Yesterday’s game-tying blast came off Brian Fuentes, who led the American League in saves with 48.
Now as Game Three emanates from Angel Stadium tomorrow afternoon, Rodriguez will look to keep the ball flying and the postseason numbers climbing. A-Rod and the Yankees will face Jered Weaver, a 16-game winner during the regular season and one of the Angels’ best pitchers in ‘09.
But Weaver probably does not scare Rodriguez.
In his career, A-Rod is 5-for-15 against the Angels’ young pitcher, four of those five hits being home runs. Historically Rodriguez has hit well in Angel Stadium too, and, in fact, against the Angels in general.
Throughout his entire MLB career when facing the Angels, Rodriguez has smashed 68 homers and has knocked in 152 runs. That's not a trend—that's ownership.
Rodriguez will help lead the Yankees in Game Three tomorrow afternoon behind Andy Pettitte, looking to further improve his numbers this postseason and his lifetime numbers against the Angels.
If Rodriguez keeps at it, he might just earn another MVP. The 2009 ALCS MVP, that is.