NEW YORK — If the Yankees do the improbable and storm their way into the playoffs, Alex Rodriguez’s pinstriped legacy might get even more complicated.
The much-maligned Rodriguez provided the perfect wake-up call for the struggling Yankees on Friday night, hitting a two-out grand slam in the seventh inning to send the Yankees to a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.
Rodriguez’s 24th career grand slam, an opposite-field shot to rightfield, broke a tie with Lou Gehrig and gave him the major-league record. A-Rod entered the at-bat 1-for-25 and the Yankees began the night with five losses in their last six games.
“It’s a huge hit,” said Joe Girardi, who called 24 slams “an unbelievable accomplishment.”
Said Rodriguez, “I saw where I was 1-for-24, 1-for-25, whatever it was, but I thought for the most part, I was swinging the bat decently well. But that’s baseball. One swing can turn a lot of things around.”
The Yankees began the night 3 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers for a wild-card spot, with three other teams ahead of them. The Yankees have eight games left. “I don’t know if we can afford to lose any more games,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Said Rodriguez, “We’re really in a sprint to the end here, and every win is huge for us.”
“We need to try to win out,” CC Sabathia said.
A-Rod’s slam came on a 2-and-1 pitch from former Yankees righthander George Kontos, who had just entered the game after Tim Lincecum walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases.
After the ball left Rodriguez’s bat, he slowly made his way out of the batter’s box, bat still in his extended left hand, looking as if he were willing the ball to leave the park.
On what he thought on contact, Girardi said, “I was pretty sure, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t trying to help it along.”