Despite the way Rodriguez exited the club’s last game, he will be in the lineup to take another shot at reaching the milestone when the Yankees face the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
Rodriguez left in the eighth inning Sunday after being hit on the left hand by a pitch during a 12-6 win over Kansas City. He stayed down for a few minutes before walking to the dugout, but is in the starting lineup for the opener of this four-game series, batting cleanup and playing third base.
“I have pretty much full strength, so I should be OK,” Rodriguez said. “I was more fearful of the ball coming toward my face. Obviously, the hand is so sensitive, and it’s very easy to break a bone or chip a bone, so I’m just thankful that didn’t happen.”
Rodriguez hit his 599th homer Thursday and although he hasn’t gone deep since then, he has been producing at the plate as New York (62-35) continues to improve the best record in baseball.
He had two hits and three RBIs on Sunday and is batting .400 with 10 RBIs in his last seven games.
Rodriguez had nine RBIs in his last series against the Indians (41-57), including a particularly memorable May 31 at Yankee Stadium. He had three hits and six RBIs, hitting a seventh-inning grand slam that helped turn a one-run lead into an 11-2 rout.
New York totaled 37 runs and 55 hits in the series.
Former Yankee Jake Westbrook(notes) (6-6, 4.74 ERA) will try to prevent Rodriguez from joining the exclusive club occupied by only six others. Rodriguez is 9 for 24 (.375) with one homer against the right-hander.
The two haven’t faced one another since 2007, when Westbrook made his most recent start against the Yankees. He is 2-4 with a 4.08 ERA versus New York.
Aside from Rodriguez, Westbrook will want to be careful pitching to Jorge Posada(notes). The Yankees catcher, who has three homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games, is 5 for 13 with two homers - one a grand slam - against Westbrook.
Amid rumors he could be dealt before Saturday’s trade deadline, Westbrook surrendered four runs over six innings at Minnesota on Wednesday. Five walks hurt him in the 6-0 loss.
“Have to do a little better job there minimizing the damage,” Westbrook said. “I felt great today. That was the frustrating part.”
Cleveland topped Tampa Bay 3-1 in the series opener Friday, but couldn’t help the Yankees out by knocking off their closest AL East pursuers over the weekend. The Indians blew an early 3-0 lead in a 6-3 loss Saturday, then left 11 runners on base in falling 4-2 on Sunday.
Cleveland is 1 for 26 with runners in scoring position over its last four games.
“Offensively, we were horrible,” manager Manny Acta said. “We had terrible approaches at the plate when we were in hitter’s counts.”
The Indians will hope for better luck against Javier Vazquez(notes) (8-7, 4.68), who won his first start after the break despite a shaky performance. Vazquez surrendered five runs and nine hits over five innings Wednesday as the Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-6.
Vazquez is 5-2 with a 3.10 ERA since June 1, holding opponents to a .196 average. He is 7-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 16 starts against Cleveland.