Of course, "up the middle" was more than 400 feet away to dead center field, good for a grand slam -- his third homer of the game -- as he had the best night of his impressive career.
"I've been feeling pretty good the past several weeks," said Rodriguez. "I've been working at staying inside the ball and hitting it hard. Tonight was more than anyone could ask for."
Rodriguez belted three homers and drove in a career-high 10 RBIs, leading the Yankees to a 12-4 win over the Angels at Yankee Stadium. All three homers came against Bartolo Colon, as A-Rod hit a three-run shot in the first, a two-run blast in the third and a grand slam in the fourth.
"You can do that in Nintendo, stuff like that," said Jason Giambi, who was in the on-deck circle for all three homers. "It was pretty incredible to watch. That was a lot of fun."
"I marvel at his ability. It was pretty awesome," said manager Joe Torre, who managed Mark Whiten with the Cardinals when he homered four times in a game in 1993. "[A-Rod has] had some success against [Colon] in the past, but Colon is no pushover. He's a pretty good pitcher."
Rodriguez had nine RBIs in his first three at-bats, setting a new career high. He had driven in seven runs in a game twice in his career, most recently against the Angels on Sept. 30, 2000. The last Yankees player to drive in nine runs in a game was Danny Tartabull, who did it on Sept. 8, 1992.
In the sixth, Rodriguez added an RBI single, bringing his game total to 10. He is just the second Yankee to have at least 10 RBIs in a single game. Tony Lazzeri holds the franchise -- and American League -- record of 11, which he did on May 24, 1936.
"That was my mindset in all five at-bats: to stroke the ball up the middle and hit it hard somewhere," Rodriguez said. "I like that [sixth-inning] at-bat a lot."
The three-homer game was the third of Rodriguez's career, giving him 38 multi-homer games in his career. His last three-homer day came on Aug. 17, 2002, against Toronto. The last Yankee to homer three times in the Bronx was Darryl Strawberry in 1996, while Mike Stanley was the last right-handed hitter to belt three dingers at Yankee Stadium, doing it in 1995.
|How Rodriguez was pitched|
Angels at Yankees, April 26
|Balls (intentional):||6 (0)|
|Walks (intentional):||0 (0)|
|Hit into play:||5 (3-run home run, 2-run home run, grand slam, RBI single, lineout)|
"That's not something you see every day," said Derek Jeter. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime game."
A-Rod's first homer came with two outs in the first, when he belted a 2-2 pitch to left-center field, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. The second long ball came in the third, also with two outs, when he deposited a 1-0 pitch from Colon into the netting over Monument Park.
"It was a combination of both," Colon said, "the fact that I made mistakes and the fact that he is a great hitter."
The grand slam, which Rodriguez crushed to dead-center field on a 3-2 pitch, was the 11th of his career, but his first since July 31, 2003.
"It was a great game by a great player," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "He had an incredible night tonight. Unfortunately, it was at our expense. We focused on getting outs, but A-Rod had a great night. You couldn't do much more than Alex did this evening."
Rodriguez became the 19th player in team history to homer three times in a game, the 24th time it has happened. Tony Clark hit three homers last August in a game against the Blue Jays at SkyDome.
In two opportunities to go for a fourth homer, Rodriguez singled in a run in the sixth and hit a hard fly ball to center in the eighth. Jake Woods, a 23-year-old lefty who was brought in to face A-Rod in the eighth, was the only pitcher to get him out all game.
"I was just going to throw my game. He was hot, but I was going out there to throw my best stuff," Woods said. "If he hit it, he hit it and if he didn't, he didn't. It is tough to get a guy out that is swinging like that."
Rodriguez now has 388 career homers, passing Dwight Evans for 46th place on the all-time list at the age of 29. He needs just one to tie Johnny Bench for 45th place and stands just 12 home runs away from being the youngest player to reach 400 home runs.
"I don't think there's anybody in baseball that doesn't understand that Alex has no ceiling here," Torre said. "He can rewrite a few things just with his ability to hit the ball out anywhere in the ballpark -- pretty much any ballpark. This was something to watch."
Even after his unbelievable performance, Rodriguez was ready to put it behind him and focus on Wednesday's matchup against Jarrod Washburn.
"Nights like tonight are very special, but you keep at it," Rodriguez said. "It's business as usual. Tomorrow, we have another big game."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less