NEW YORK -- A-Rod finally got his dinger.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had been spinning his wheels trying to launch career homer No. 600. Entering Wednesday's matinee, he had gone 12 games -- 46 at bats and 51 plate appearances -- since No. 599.
In the opening two games of the series here against the Blue Jays, A-Rod had gone 0-for-8 -- hitting just one ball out of the infield -- and overall was in an 0-for-17 skid. But he didn't have to sweat it out this game -- a 5-1 Yankees victory that prevented a Jays sweep -- as homer No. 600 came in his first at bat in the opening inning with Derek Jeter on board.
Right-hander Shaun Marcum was the pigeon to share the stage with Rodriguez who drove a 2-0 pitch over the fence in centre and into the net that prevents balls from clanging around the monuments below it. So, no fan got the ball and was able to cash in.
It was the second home run that Rodriguez has hit off Marcum in his career and his 51st against the Blue Jays.
With the bomb, A-Rod becomes the seventh member of baseball's exclusive 600 home run club. The list is topped by Barry Bonds with 762 followed by Hank Aaron, 755; Babe Ruth, 714; Willie Mays, 660; Ken Griffey Jr. 630 and Sammy Sosa, 609.
To the Yankees' credit, there was no game-stopping celebration, speeches or jets flying overhead following the milestone hit. The crowd erupted in a standing ovation, A-Rod was greeted and hugged by his teammates and there was the customary curtain call by the fans. That was it.
By not doing the overblown production, complete with the Rockettes chorus line, the Yankees showed their class and respect for the game.
A-Rod's track record, and the fact he is not a Yankees lifer, perhaps played a part in the muted celebration.
In 2009, following reports in Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids, saying he used them from 2001-03 while a member of the Texas Rangers because of the pressure to perform and the size of his $250-million US contract. It is a stain that no amount of home runs can erase.
Afterwards, Rodriguez said that he was just as relieved as joyous and then tried to sell his team-guy image, claiming that personal stats don't top collective triumphs such as winning the World Series.
"It's definitely a special number. I'm proud of it and will treasure it for a long, long time," he said of the 600 feat. "Today, we needed the win and it was good to do it in a winning fashion and give us a little breathing room in the first inning.
"I like playing ball and being one of the guys," he said. "So much has changed for me, my place in the clubhouse, the relationship with my teammates. The perspective of 600 home runs is really good but, after winning the World Series, nothing beats celebrating on the mound, being the last team standing."
The numbers, so far he said, are just that -- numbers.
"Five hundred, 600, 650 -- the real milestone is when you start surpassing all-time greats," he said.
And that is expected to come, a run at, and a surpassing of, Bonds.
However, as far as being a dominating home run hitter, those days appear to be in the past. While he is still a solid run producer -- Rodriguez has 87 RBIs on the season -- the homer was just his 17th of the season.
After hitting 54 with the Yankees in 2007, A-Rod dipped to 35 in 2008, 30 in '09 and now 17 in 101 games this season.
That shows a definite trend downhill.
At 35, it would seem to be too early to write off A-Rod as a power hitter and too early to say that he doesn't have a legitimate shot at breaking Bonds' record.
But post-35, you just never know when a hitter's bat will begin to slow just enough that he no longer can catch up to mid-90 fastballs on a consistent basis.
On Wednesday, he took the bows, but his glory days could be coming to an end.