OAKLAND, Calif. -- The ball went up, up and away. No. 596 for Alex Rodriguez looked as if it might end up in San Francisco. It was a third-inning grand slam that broke open up another Yankees win and it was classic A-Rod.
He knew that it would leave the park. He looked over at the dugout after sending All-Star Trevor Cahill's 89 mph sinker screaming into the night. He jogged around the bases with his familiar, confident gallop.
Then, in the sixth, Rodriguez creamed a solo shot over the center-field wall, beating Cahill this time on a 78 mph changeup.
It was No. 597 of A-Rod's rock star career -- stats, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- but, more importantly for the Yankees, it was the first time this season that A-Rod had gone deep twice. He and Mark Teixeira are taking off, which means the Yankees could be treated to a strong second half.
The Yankees are on pace to win 100 games, mostly without A-Rod and Teixeira being their normal selves. Now they are looking as if they've found their groove, which is a scary thought for the rest of the American League.
On the day, the Yankees' clubhouse was filled with news. There was closer Mariano Rivera skipping the All-Star Game and going into detail about a new knee injury. There was Yankees manager Joe Girardi and hitting coach Kevin Long suggesting displeasure with Robinson Cano's planned participation in the Home Run Derby, which Cano may back out of still.
And finally, there was Oakland's Dallas Braden giving A-Rod a peace offering of a signed ball, a T-shirt and a poster commemorating his perfect game.
By the end of the night the biggest story, as usual, was A-Rod. He always makes sure of that. Many times it is for the wrong reasons, but not this week.
On Monday, he was putting to bed the Braden controversy, accepting memorabilia from the A's lefty and signing 10 "Get Off My Mound" shirts for charity. On Tuesday morning, it was revealed he was taking part in an event for Taylor Hooton's anti-performance enhancing drugs charity. By the evening, he was jogging around the bases on his way to 600.
For whatever anyone thinks of Rodriguez, it all starts with his amazing ability. At times this year, he has looked as if he may not put up his usual numbers -- and he likely won't have the same home run numbers he is accustomed to -- but he is now third in the majors with 67 RBIs, surpassing David Wright with the five he collected Tuesday night.
"I like RBIs because that helps the team win," said Rodriguez, playing down that even with his two homers, numbers 13 and 14 on the season, he is still on pace for less than 30 on the year.
He also is looking nifty in the field, making a diving stop in the seventh Tuesday night to start an inning-ending double play.
A-Rod has hit three of the Yankees' nine grand slams. It is the third time in his career he has had at least three in a season and, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Jimmie Fox is the only other player to do it. As a team, the nine grannies are the most ever by a team prior to the break, according to Elias.
A-Rod even served as an elder spokesman before Tuesday's game. A group of reporters surrounded him to ask how Cano should handle the Home Run Derby.
"He should hit them far, far, very far," Rodriguez said.
That is what Rodriguez did Tuesday night. He is closing in on history, while making the present a lot more appealing for the Yankees.
GAME NOTES: CC Sabathia is an All-Star and a Cy Young candidate. In improving to 11-3, Sabathia went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just a first-inning run and striking out 10. Sabathia hasn't lost in more than a month (June 23 against the Mets). ... Derek Jeter finally picked up an RBI. His run-scoring groundout in the third ended his 19-game RBI-less streak. ... Teixeira was hit by a pitch on the lower back but was fine, according to Girardi. Teixeira has reached base in 27 straight games. The Yankees send A.J. Burnett (6-7, 4.90 ERA) against Gio Gonzalez (7-5, 3.50) as they look for the sweep Wednesday.