Friday, October 12, 2012

The shell of A-Rod

Swing and a miss: Rodriguez struck out in
this eighth-inning at-bat with two on against
low-angle righty Darren O'Day.
Alex Rodriguez is far from the only Yankee struggling at the plate in this fascinating division series with Baltimore.

Cleanup hitter Robinson Cano is 2 for 18. Curtis Granderson is 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts.

But it's A-Rod who has been pinch-hit for in consecutive games against Orioles closer Jim Johnson. It worked sensationally well in Game 3, when Raul Ibanez created a legend with back-to-back jacks to first tie then win the game. It didn't work in Game 4.

Rodriguez did draw a walk and line a single off Joe Saunders on Thursday, but once the Orioles replaced the lefty and Rodriguez had to face right-handers, he was lost again.

Pinch-hitting for the 647-homer man on Wednesday created quite a stir; when it happened again on Thursday, TBS' Ernie Johnson could barely be bothered to mention who Eric Chavez was hitting for. And the question was less why Joe Girardi was hitting for A-Rod with two outs in the 13th and down a run than why he didn't hit for A-Rod in the eighth with two men on.

This morning, the question is: Will Girardi start Rodriguez in today's Game 5 against the right-handed Jason Hammel, or will he fit another left-handed bat into his lineup at Rodriguez's expense?

And the deeper question is: Is this just a slump, or have age and injury dissolved Rodriguez's talents to the point that he's no longer usable against right-handed pitching? This year, he hit .308/.410/.514 against southpaws, but just .256/.326/.391 against righties.

One season's platoon split is not conclusive evidence, but it's increasingly clear that he has trouble catching up to fastballs.

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