Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rodriguez's Milestone Delights the Stadium

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Rodriguez's Milestone Delights the Stadium

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - There's no mistaking the sound of a fastball being met squarely, right at the sweet spot where the bat-barrel is fattest. You just knew Alex Rodriguez had made history the moment he nailed Justin Verlander's first pitch to him. The swing was perfect. The pitch was placed conveniently in the strike zone's epicenter. The collision between bat and ball was thunderous.

It lasted only a millisecond, but the sound reverberated around the Stadium, and it needed no translation. It meant A-Rod had beaten Verlander, and as the ball went screaming over the wall in right- center, the race to career hit No. 3000 was over. A-Rod circled the bases on a victory tour, pointing to the crowd, to his teammates in the dugout, to his family behind home plate. There were no haters in the ballpark, only those who showered him with cheers and, crazily, maybe even a sprinkling of love.

Rodriguez would later described his sleepless night on Thursday - "I was "anticipating what the day would be like." He was a bag of nerves, but when it was over, he exhaled long and slow and thanked the Yankees, Joe Girardi, his teammates, the fans and everyone else who didn't abandon him.

Whatever you think of A-Rod, you have to give him credit for this much: the man has a flair for timing. He knew why more than 44,000 headed to the Bronx on a Friday night and why there was an impatient murmuring while Adam Warren was whipping through the Tigers in the top of the first.

The night was all about A-Rod versus Verlander, waiting for Rodriguez to cross the bridge from 2999 to 3000. The buzz grew louder as Brett Gardner led off with a single and was promptly picked off first. No one really paid attention - the crowd was becoming increasingly woozy as Chase Headley stepped to the plate and A-Rod emerged from the dugout to the on-deck circle.

Headley flied out to left, at which point the game was reduced to a mere accessory to A-Rod's pursuit of the record book. It was him and Verlander, one on one, a star-crossed slugger against a former Cy Young Award winner. Verlander did what he could to rise to the moment, trying to re-create the monster velocity of his past. The days of Verlander's 100-mph fastball are long gone, but he nevertheless delivered a 95-mph four-seamer that, for most hitters, would've been difficult to solve.

But not A-Rod - not on this night, not in this crazy year when his algorithm for success is near-perfect. Rodriguez didn't make it 3000 on Thursday night only because he never got the chance to swing the bat in his final at-bat against the Marlins' Sam Dyson. He walked on four pitches that weren't even c lose.

But A-Rod was incredibly locked in throughout the game, proof that he's doing more than just hitting well in 2015, he's hitting lasers. So says the game's newest metric, exit velocity, which measure how fast a ball jumps off the bat. …

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