Alex Rodriguez was benched for the New York Yankees’ biggest game of the year, ending a 70-game postseason starting streak for Major League Baseball’s highest-paid player who has been mired in a playoff slump.
Rodriguez, 37, the major league active career home-run leader and a former Most Valuable Player, was left out of the starting lineup by manager Joe Girardi in last night’s American League Division Series 3-1 win against the Baltimore Orioles. Eric Chavez played third base in his place and hit ninth at Yankee Stadium, and Rodriguez did not get into the game.
The victory gave the Yankees a 3-2 series win as they advanced to play the Detroit Tigers in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series for a spot in the World Series.
“I always have to look in the mirror,” Rodriguez told reporters before the game.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi called the decision “difficult,” and said Rodriguez wasn’t injured and was prepared to pinch hit if needed.
“His message is, ‘Let’s win and I’m ready to help whenever you need me,’” Girardi said at a news conference before the game. “And I believe that.”
Rodriguez had started the last 70 of 72 postseason games he’s played. The last time he entered a postseason game as a pinch-hitter was in 1995, his second season in the major leagues, while with the Seattle Mariners. During Game 4 of the AL Championship Series at the Cleveland Indians, he pinch hit in the ninth inning, striking out.
Rodriguez, who has five years and $114 million left on his contract, is 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts this postseason. All the strikeouts have come against right-handed pitchers. Last night’s Baltimore starter, Jason Hammel, is a right-hander.
“He’s meant a lot to our organization and the game of baseball over the years and has been a very productive hitter, but he’s struggled against right-handers this series,” Girardi said.
Against Hammel, Rodriguez is 8-for-24 with four home runs and nine runs batted in.
Rodriguez hit fifth in the order two days ago after batting in the No. 3 spot in the first three games of the series. He was removed in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 and replaced by Raul Ibanez, who tied the game with a home run and won it with another home run in the 12th inning.
Rodriguez was removed from Game 4 in the 13th inning and replaced by Chavez, who lined out to end the game as the Orioles won 2-1.
Rodriguez is 4-for-34 with 15 strikeouts over the last two postseasons. A three-time AL MVP whose 647 home runs rank fifth on the MLB career list, Rodriguez last hit a homer on Sept. 14 and has gone 21 games since his last postseason home run in 2009.