A-Rod matches up well vs. Saunders

Maybe hitting fifth is exactly what Alex Rodriguez needs to break out of his playoff slump.

If his recent history against Baltimore starter Joe Saunders is any indication, Rodriguez could be in for a breakout performance in Game 4.

Rodriguez has hit .400 (8-for-20) with two homers and five RBIs against Saunders.

So far this postseason, Rodriguez has struggled. He is 1-for-12 with seven Ks.

A-Rod, of course, was lifted for pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez in the ninth inning of Game 3. It was a gutsy move by manager Joe Girardi -- and it paid off.

Ibanez hit a game-tying homer in the ninth and a game-winning homer in the 12th.

Rodriguez finished the night 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

On his decision to move Rodriguez down to fifth, Girardi cited both Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira's recent success against Saunders.

"I liked them both, so I just decided to go that way," the manager said.

Girardi also reiterated that his relationship with Rodriguez would not be strained by his decision to lift A-Rod for Ibanez in Game 3.

"We have a very honest relationship. I trust him. I expect big things from him tonight. I still believe he's a great player," Girardi said.

After the game, Rodriguez said that he's feeling comfortable at the plate, despite the horrid results.

"This is as relaxed as I've been in months," Rodriguez said. "I've had some pretty good swings, fouling it back. It's playoff baseball; you're trying to do damage every time you go up."

Since his remarkable playoff run in 2009, in which he helped lead the Yanks to the World Series, Rodriguez is hitting .135 (10-for-74) with six RBIs, 0 HR and 19 strikeouts.

"I wish I could go up every time and hit a double, a home run," Rodriguez said Wednesday night. "Look, I wish that was me hitting two home runs tonight. It wasn't me; it was the next best guy, Raul."

Rodriguez has not homered in 80 at-bats but insists that he's seeing the ball well and just missing hittable pitches.

"I saw the ball well tonight," he said after Game 3. "I was as relaxed and comfortable as I've been in a long time. Sometimes when you get your pitch or two, you can't miss them. You can't foul them back you can't leave them in the net.

"You wish you were 8-for-15 but the bottom line is we've got a 2-1 lead and (Thursday) we've got another big game and I'll be ready to keep attacking."

SUCCESS VS. SAUNDERS: Rodriguez isn't the only Yankee with good numbers against Saunders. Ichiro Suzuki (.341, 14-for-41, 5 RBIs) has had success, as has Ibanez (.348, 8-for-23, 2 HR, 6 RBIs) and Derek Jeter (.500, 9-for-18, 2 RBIs). Jayson Nix, the starting shortstop, is 3-for-10 with three homers against Saunders.