Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Bryan Bullington(notes) are both former top overall draft picks. That’s about the only thing they have in common the way their careers have turned out, with Rodriguez hitting 604 home runs and Bullington still searching for his first career win.
The Yankees slugger blossomed into an immediate superstar after being selected by Seattle in 1993 and now ranks seventh on the career home run list with 604. The latest evidence was his three-homer game in Saturday’s 8-3 victory, marking the fourth time he has accomplished the feat.
The three-time AL MVP drove in five runs to take over the major league lead with 97 RBIs.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Rodriguez, who served as the DH and should return to third base Sunday. “Overall, I’ve been feeling pretty good the last few days. I’ve had some pretty good sessions with Kevin Long, our hitting coach.”
Rodriguez is 14 for 32 with four homers and 14 RBIs against Kansas City (48-69) this year. He went deep in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings Saturday.
“He was dead on today, that’s for sure,” Royals manager Ned Yost. “I don’t know which was more amazing - the ball to center or the ball to left there in the fountain. He got a hold of both them.”
It’s been a completely different career trajectory for Bullington (0-2, 4.85 ERA), a former No. 1 overall draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2002. He’s 0-7 with a 5.02 ERA in 19 career appearances with four different teams, including 0-6 with a 6.59 ERA in six starts heading into his first appearance against the Yankees (72-44).
The right-hander gave up five hits and three runs in six innings in his first start since Sept. 28, 2008 - a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
“I wanted to come out and be aggressive and throw strikes, and I felt like I did that. I was able to make some pitches to get out of a couple of situations, but I missed a few spots,” Bullington said. “I threw the slider for strikes when I needed to and I was able to get some swings and missed out of some, too.”
Rodriguez’s big night helped New York maintain its two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL East. Every Yankee starter had at least one hit, as the club finished with 14.
The Yankees will start A.J. Burnett(notes) (9-9, 4.87), who has been successful against Kansas City in the past. His 2.96 ERA against the Royals is his second-lowest against any AL team bettered only by his 2.43 mark against New York.
Burnett is 3-2 in those outings against Kansas City. He will finish the road trip after starting it Tuesday by allowing three runs over seven innings in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to Texas.
The veteran right-hander has struggled with his control, hitting an AL-high 13 batters and also throwing 11 wild pitches.
Sunday’s contest will mark the midpoint of a stretch of 20 straight days with a game for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi has indicated that regulars such as Derek Jeter(notes) will receive rest at some point in this span.