Alex Rodriguez’s eyes darted to the television screen as reporters gathered around his locker in the New York Yankee clubhouse.
Instead of fielding a question, he asked one.
“What inning is it?” he inquired.
Moments after the Yankees defeated Baltimore, 2-1, Wednesday night, Rodriguez and his teammates rushed off the field to find out whether the victory thrust New York into sole possession of first place in the American League East, one game ahead of Boston.
After Manny Ramirez made the final out for the Red Sox in a 7-2 loss to Toronto, there was no commotion in the New York clubhouse. Only a feeling of satisfaction that will last at least until tonight’s game against Baltimore.
“It doesn’t mean anything unless you come in and play well tomorrow,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez hit a milestone homer, Derek Jeter singled in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, and the Yankees used a fine pitching performance by Shawn Chacon (7-3) to get past the Orioles.
Boston and New York meet in a three-game series beginning Friday night. The Yankee victory Wednesday means New York will need no more than two wins at Fenway Park to win the division.
“There’s no comfort. We know what the Boston Red Sox are all about. We saw what they did last year. That’s very clear in our minds,” Rodriguez said, referring to Boston’s comeback against New York in the AL championship series last October on the way to a World Series title.
Baltimore has lost 10 of 11, and this one stung interim Manager Sam Perlozzo. “I’m not happy about this loss, OK? For multiple reasons. You can guess yourself,” he said.
Although he didn’t say it, much of his anger was directed at the strike zone of plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez set the record for most home runs by a New York Yankee right-handed hitter in one season:
*--* HRS PLAYER YEAR 47 Alex Rodriguez 2005 46 Joe DiMaggio 1937 39 Joe DiMaggio 1948 39 Alfonso Soriano 2002 38 Alfonso Soriano 2003 37 Dave Winfield 1982 36 Alex Rodriguez 2004 36 Gary Sheffield 2004 33 Bob Meusel 1925 33 Gary Sheffield 2005