NEW YORK -- There's probably only one place in baseball where the sight of Alex Rodriguez hitting his 660th home run will be less welcome than it will be in the New York Yankees front office, and that is Fenway Park.
But, after what was statistically his worst day at the plate as a major leaguer, that is exactly where Rodriguez is headed this weekend: to Boston, the site of some of his most memorable -- or forgettable -- moments, depending upon which side of the field you sit.
Rodriguez made history in Wednesday's 3-2, 13-inning Yankees loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, although not of the kind he would like to, and certainly not of the kind 30,000 people came to the ballpark on an April afternoon to see. For the first time in his 21 major league seasons, Rodriguez went 0-for-6. He also struck out four times, a feat he had accomplished on four other occasions. He even provided a walk-off, although not the type the crowd was hoping for, when he rapped the first pitch he saw from Rays closer Ernesto Frieri right to the shortstop for an easy, game-ending, 6-4-3 double play.
That means in his six at-bats, Rodriguez accounted for seven outs, also a career high.
"Today was definitely a tough day for our offense and, specifically, for me," Rodriguez said. "You have to have a short memory, just press delete and enjoy the day off tomorrow and be ready to go Friday."
Three of Rodriguez's strikeouts came courtesy of Rays starter Drew Smyly, a left-hander who struck out 10 Yankees in his six innings of work.
"I wasn't picking up the ball very well," Rodriguez said. "I took some really ugly swings. He had my number, that's for sure."
Rodriguez said he was glad to see Smyly leave the game, but as he pointed out, the results did not improve; Kevin Jepsen got him to ground out in the ninth, Brandon Gomes struck him out with a slider with a runner on first in the 11th and Frieri finished him, and the Yankees, off with a single fastball in the 13th.
Although he had a home run and two RBIs in Sunday's night win over the Mets, Rodriguez's batting average has been marching steadily downward, from a high of .344 on April 17 to where it stood after Wednesday's game, .232, having plummeted 22 points today alone. Rodriguez is 4-for-his-past-31 (.129), and even though he was given a day off on Tuesday, he certainly looks as if he could use another one, having played in 20 of the Yankees' 22 games.
"I've been feeling OK,' he said. "Today I didn't feel very comfortable. I definitely chased today, and one of the keys for our offense and me, specifically, is swing at strikes and take your 'A' swing. And today I didn't do that."
There is also the possibility that he is pressing in trying to reach the milestone, a number that would tie him with Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball's all-time home run list and also trigger a $6 million bonus clause the Yankees have said they will not pay without a fight. In 2010, Rodriguez went 12 games and 46 at-bats between home runs No. 599 and 600, so there is a precedent for that belief.
Rodriguez admitted as much. "Maybe a little bit," he said when asked if he was pressing to get the symbolic home run out of the way.
"I know I stayed on 600 for a long time, and it's only been a few games here," he said. "It would've been nice to do it here at home, obviously, in front of the home fans. But we'll go on to Fenway."
Rodriguez has hit 24 of his 659 career home runs at Fenway Park, but few more memorable than the one he hit off Ryan Dempster on August 18, 2013. It came four innings after Dempster had plunked him with a pitch, after narrowly missing him at least two other times, that sparked a bench-clearing argument.
"I'm excited. I love playing at Fenway," Rodriguez said. "It's a fun place to play, great fans, and obviously I have a lot of respect for everyone with the Red Sox. I'm looking forward to it"
And the chance to catch Mays in front of fans who will hate to see it almost as much as the Yankees will.