A-Rod has impact in final game with the Yankees

There was no home run, which would have made the night ideal, but his final game for the Yankees Friday night was all that Alex Rodriguez could have hoped for. He got a run-scoring double his first time up, hit the ball hard in two of his three other at-bats and even got to take the field one last time at third base.

All the while he listened to a capacity crowd of 46,469 at Yankee Stadium shower him with applause, chants of “A-Rod!” and “We want Alex!” throughout the muggy summer evening. Manager Joe Girardi, who has faced criticism for not playing Rodriguez more often this week, broke down in the interview room after the 6-3 victory over the Rays, which indicated that his decision to bench A-Rod was purely based on the 41-year-old’s declining ability and not for any other reason.

It was Girardi who approached Rodriguez after his final at-bat in the seventh inning and asked him if he wanted to wear his glove one more time. The answer was easy for A-Rod. As fans were bellowing “We want A-Rod!” their hero trotted onto the field at the start of the ninth inning. After the first out by Dellin Betances, who struck out the side to earn his fourth save, Girardi sent Ronald Torreyes out to third base, which allowed Rodriguez to receive yet another ovation from the crowd.

“I can’t say enough about the fans,” Rodriguez said. “With all that I have been through, for all those people to be here and show me love was overwhelming.”

It is true that for the most part Yankees fans have rallied around Rodriguez, who has tried very hard to win back their support after an ugly period in 2014 when he was suspended for the season for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs and went on a campaign to discredit the commissioner’s office, the Yankees, their doctors and even his union, the Major League Players Association.

Since his return in 2015, Rodriguez has apologized profusely for that behavior and has tried hard to make amends. But after a very strong first four months last year, A-Rod fell into a steady decline that continued into this season to the point that he lost at-bats as the designated hitter against right-handed pitching. An agreement with Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner led to Friday night, Rodriguez’s last in a Yankees uniform.

It was a night filled with joy and success. Starlin Castro drove in four runs with a two-run single and a two-run home run. Aaron Hicks, who has struggled himself to win over fans, also homered. CC Sabathia pitched six gutty innings for only his second victory in 10 starts since June 16.

Rodriguez was happy that he was able to contribute to a victory in his last game in pinstripes. Whether it is his last game in any big-league uniform seems to be a matter of conjecture.

“This will be pretty tough to top,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know what else a man can ask for.”

Before leaving the field, Rodriguez walked over to his old third base position, scooped up some dirt and placed it in his pocket. He later put the dirt in a pouch when he changed into civvies.

“It was something I saw Roger Clemens do, and I thought it was cool,” Rodriguez said. “Third base is where I lived in my time with the Yankees. I wanted to take some of that with me.”

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