Alex Rodriguez could be on his way to a season of historic proportions. His next home run will surely make history.
Rodriguez tries to become a member of the 500-home run club on Thursday night as the surging Yankees seek their seventh straight win and a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
Rodriguez hit his major league-leading 35th home run in Wednesday’s 7-1 victory, moving within one of becoming the 22nd player to reach 500.
Rodriguez, who turns 32 Friday, will likely surpass Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days) as the youngest with 500 homers. He would become the second player to reach 500 this season, joining Toronto’s Frank Thomas.
“I think for the most part, he would like to get it over with, and I know we would like to get it over with,” manager Joe Torre said. “But you’re seeing something special.”
In an interesting twist, New York faces Baltimore on Friday night to complete a game suspended June 28. When the game resumes, the Yankees will be up 8-6 in the top of the eighth with two outs and Rodriguez on deck. If he happens to homer, that shot would officially be No. 493 for his career, making Wednesday’s home run his 500th.
Kansas City’s starter Thursday is Jorge De La Rosa (7-10, 5.61 ERA), who gave up A-Rod’s 400th homer with Milwaukee on June 8, 2005, as a reliever.
“It’s a crazy thing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s pretty unbelievable that it could actually work out that way.”
De La Rosa had little to say Wednesday night about the prospect of facing Rodriguez with No. 500 possible.
“I’m going to pitch him very carefully,” he said.
Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera also homered Wednesday for the Yankees (54-46), who have won 11 of 13 to close within 6 1/2 games of AL East-leading Boston, the closest they have been since trailing the Red Sox by six games before play on May 10.
“We’re just looking for wins every day,” said Rodriguez, who also leads the majors with 102 RBIs. “It’s hard for me to think about this when every game is so important for us. I don’t do a good job of celebrating or savoring anything.”
New York, 4 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Cleveland, pounded out 13 hits for the third straight game.
“We like what we’re doing,” Torre said. “There’s obviously a lot of baseball left, and the important part from here on out is to make sure the good streaks outnumber the bad ones, to minimize the damage and try to maximize what we’re doing now.”
While Rodriguez was often one of the few Yankees producing consistently earlier in the season, the entire lineup has been contributing lately.
New York has outscored opponents 70-19 during the six-game streak, averaging 15.3 hits in that span.
Robinson Cano is batting a robust .607 (17-for-28) with eight RBIs and 10 runs scored in the last seven games while Matsui has four homers and 11 RBIs during that stretch.
New York’s offense has nothing left to prove, but Kei Igawa (2-2, 6.67) does. The Japanese left-hander looks to record his first win as a starter in more than three months. He picked up a victory with six scoreless innings in relief against Boston on April 28, but is 0-2 with an 8.13 ERA in seven starts since beating Cleveland on April 18.
Igawa allowed two runs and seven hits over five innings Saturday against Tampa Bay, but left without a decision in New York’s 7-3 victory.
Igawa, who has never faced the Royals, has pitched five innings in three consecutive starts with the Yankees winning each time.
Any momentum Kansas City (43-57) built by entering this series with four wins in five games has been erased by the Yankees.
The Royals have been outscored 22-7 and outhit 39-23 in the first three games. They are on the verge of being swept in a four-game series at home for the first time since Minnesota did it Aug. 3-6.
De La Rosa has allowed 10 runs and nine hits through 7 2-3 innings in his last two starts, both losses. That stretch comes after he went 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA in his three previous outings.
De La Rosa was a 5-0 winner in his only career start against the Yankees on Sept. 5, yielding six hits over 5 2-3 innings.