Almost a week after Alex Rodriguez hit home runs number 657 and 658, he finally reached 659 with a dinger on Sunday night. That leaves him with one more homer to go before he reaches number 660, tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list, and receives his $6 million milestone incentive bonus.
A-Rod got the Yankees on the board after a troubling two-run first inning from Nathan Eovaldi put the team in an early deficit. It cuts the Mets' lead in half and proved to be just the beginning against Jon Niese as the Yankees scored another four runs off him in the second to keep the lead for good. A-Rod would go on to go 2–4 with a double he tried to unsuccessfully stretch into three bases, and collected two RBI on the night.
Sunday night's home run proved to be a little different than the others he has hit this year as it came off a 74 mph curveball. If you've been following along with this series at home, you might have noticed that this is his first dinger of the year off any kind of breaking pitch. Before this, they had all come from four-seam fastballs. Seeing him hit one out off a curveball is actually a bit surprising, considering it is the pitch he has homered off of the least since 2007 at just 0.54% out of over 1100 offerings. His batting average against is also the lowest against the curve at a mere .224, making this dinger a bit of a surprise.
Thanks to the magic of television, ESPN's K-Zone shows us that Niese's curveball, which ultimately may have been intended to fall hard into the dirt, was on the outside part of the plate–another first for this season as his other homers came from belt-high, over the plate or inside. If this series has proven anything, it's that Alex Rodriguez can hit any ball, on any part of the plate, out of the ballpark, but he does like the ball on the outside part of the plate:
While he doesn't cover as much ground on the outer-half as he does on the inner-half, it's still dangerous to throw him anything that isn't down and away. By making solid contact on this outside pitch, it allowed A-Rod to send the ball the other way to right field for his first opposite field homer of the season.
His latest dinger proved to be his shortest of the year as it only managed to go 382 feet and just barely made it over after it bounced off the top of the wall and landed in the Yankee Stadium bullpens. It was also the slowest off the bat at just 97.5 mph and isn't likely to have been a home run in any other ballpark except this one.
This was a very different home run than the other four we have seen from A-Rod this year, and that's not just based on the actual play on the field. As we all know, the Yankees have been ignoring Rodriguez and his approach to his home run milestone, possibly with the hope that everyone would forget about that $6 million they will owe him. They haven't marketed his chase to 660 at all and have ignored it entirely, at least until now:
.@AROD home run. No. 659.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 27, 2015
That's not a whole lot of commentary, but it's more than what we had been seeing from them in the past. Now it's curious to see if they've suddenly changed tactics and what they might do when he finally does hit that next dinger. When asked what the Yankees might have in store for him when he ties Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez kept things light:
ARod on whether or not the Yankees might celebrate his 660th homer: "I dont have a marketing degree - im just focused on playing baseball."— Daniel Barbarisi (@DanBarbarisi) April 27, 2015
He has three games against the Rays if he wants to hit it at home so we can see what kind of reception he will get, otherwise, he'll have to hit it in Boston or Toronto before they come back home for a four-game set against the Orioles. The last time he had a big home run milestone, it took him a little while to finally get over the hump:
A-Rod went 51 PA between HR No. 599 and No. 600 in 2010.— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) April 27, 2015
Hopefully it won't take that long for us to see what happens next.