This is the number we've been counting down to for weeks; Alex Rodriguez has hit the 661st home run of his career to pass Willie Mays and take over sole possession of fourth place on the all-time home run list. As the final installment of this series, let's take a look at the last dinger A-Rod had to hit to reach the milestone the Yankees don't want to admit exists.
First of all, A-Rod was determined to have this all end Thursday night. He hit a long fly ball to right field in the first inning that looked destined for the seats, until Delmon Young was able to haul it back in and rob him of his record-breaking homer.
At this point, the Yankees were already losing 1–0 after Jimmy Paredes hit a home run in the top of the first off Nathan Eovaldi. If the ball went out, the three-run home run would have given them a two-run lead; instead, the long drive turned into a long sac fly to tie the game. Mark Teixeira then drove in the go-ahead run, but by the time A-Rod came around to bat again, Corban Joseph had already hit another solo shot off Eovaldi to tie the game again.
While most of A-Rod's home runs have come off the fastball, Thursday's homer came off an 83-mph changeup that ended up right in the middle of the plate. If you watch Joseph's glove, you'll see that it was supposed to be low in the hopes that Rodriguez might chase the pitch out of the zone. Unfortunately for Chris Tillman, the ball ended up right down the pipes and he didn't miss it.
If you needed a reminder, A-Rod will destroy anything thrown over the plate, so even if Tillman didn't miss his spot, there was a good chance he'd still be able to do something with it.
Over the course of his career, Alex Rodriguez has homered against the changeup 0.94% of the time and possesses a .183 ISO against the pitch, making for the second-best marks (by sample size) against any pitch other than the fastball. Considering that Thursday night's home run just about went to dead center, the 423-foot dinger was among his farthest in 2015. At 106.2 mph off the bat, it was among his slowest, while the 22.9 elevated angle made it his lowest of the season and the 76-foot apex had it middle of the pack in terms of overall height. This one and his home run against Jon Niese in April remain the only two dingers he has hit that wouldn't have made it out of all 30 ballparks.
Last night's game proved to be just another pummeling for Chris Tillman at the hand of the Yankees. They have hit .302/.361/.449 off the righty in his career and he has allowed hitters to maintain a .370/.422/.556 batting line with six home runs in 182 plate appearances at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez alone has hit .500/.500/1.500 with four home runs and nine RBI in 12 at-bats, so history said this was going to be an interesting matchup during a milestone watch.
Our journey to 661 is over and it ended at no better place than Yankee Stadium because then we got to see how the Yankees would react to the milestone home run that isn't a milestone. It turns out, as expected, the organization did a minimal amount of celebrating.
From their unenthused Twitter intern:
.@AROD hits No. 661, passing Willie Mays.— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 8, 2015
A-Rod's homer: http://t.co/XzEAMEZ5wn— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 8, 2015
To their in-stadium congratulatory announcement that was off the video board before a single beat writer could take a picture of it.
A-Rod hits 661, #Yankees acknowledge on scoreboard! Flashed for about 10 seconds. A-Rod also came out for curtain call.— David Lennon (@DPLennon) May 8, 2015
Yankees acknowledge HR 661 on scoreboard. It came down before I could get a shot. But this happened: curtain call. pic.twitter.com/KXFd3B5oEN— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) May 8, 2015
It's funny that after weeks of declaring Alex Rodriguez's feats to be unmarketable, that he'd get a curtain call from his hometown fans after finally passing this historic mark. Everyone seems to be on A-Rod's side here, except for the Yankees, which makes the whole thing incredibly silly.
Thankfully, this home run ball will be easier for Rodriguez to retrieve as it was collected by a Yankee Stadium security guard and not another bitter Red Sox fan.
Arods #661 hit Sean Hughes (stadium security) on leg. Grabbed it gave it to Arod ... Who hooked him up w/signed bat pic.twitter.com/q6IBm9YmmV— Meredith Marakovits (@M_Marakovits) May 8, 2015
Now that Willie Mays is out of the way, Alex Rodriguez has another 53 home runs to go before he reaches Babe Ruth at 714 and third place on the all-time home runs list. That milestone may come over the next two seasons, but we still have more to celebrate in 2015. By the end of the night, he finished with 2,962 hits, meaning we're just 38 hits away from 3,000 and another non-marketable milestone. We'll be taking a closer look at those hits once he gets closer to the mark.