Only this competition ended up with Laird sliding home safely past Rodriguez's tag and A-Rod getting up looking stunned, with a scrape on his chin.
While the run was just one of many for the Rangers as they handed the Yankees their most lopsided loss of the season, 14-2, at Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon, it proved to be a microcosm of what went wrong for the Yankees throughout the day. The loss ended New York's win streak over Texas at eight games, dating back to last season.
"A close game turned into a slaughter," explained Johnny Damon of Laird's run, which made the score 2-1.
There was a bullpen meltdown, as Luis Vizcaino and Sean Henn combined to let in seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings after the Yankees' relief corps had begun to show improvement over the last week.
There was Chien-Ming Wang looking all too human, as he allowed seven runs of his own in 6 1/3 innings after toying with perfection just five days ago.
Then there was the fly ball that Miguel Cairo lost in the sun in left field for a ground-rule double, setting up an eventual pinch-hit grand slam by Victor Diaz as the Rangers put up a seven-spot in the eighth inning.
When asked about the rundown and where fault lied, A-Rod gave a slight laugh and flashed a smile as he shrugged his shoulders.
"I have no idea -- you saw it," said Rodriguez, heading for the exit as the Yankees leave town for nine games on the road, starting with three in Seattle this weekend and ending with a Subway Series at Shea Stadium next weekend. "That was so long ago, 14-2."
The Yankees were quick to point to this being just one game, but they also admitted that the botched play was a prime example of missed opportunities, much like their recently completed homestand.
Thursday's loss prevented the Yankees from sweeping the Rangers and produced a 4-3 homestand -- a seven-game set in the Bronx that many hoped would allow the Yankees to gain some ground on the Red Sox, comfortably in first place in the American League East.
Still, the Yankees are looking at the bigger picture -- because they have to.
"I'm comfortable with the way we're playing," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We can't worry about them as much as we have to continue to win eight out of 10 or 12 and continue to do those things. We have to pay attention to our record and deal with the other stuff at the time you need to deal with it."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter, pointing to the club's 7-2 May record entering Thursday's game, said: "We just didn't execute -- that's the bottom line. I'm not worried about the record, because we've been playing good, and that's what we want to continue. Yeah, we would like to go 7-0 every homestand we play seven games, but it's not going to happen."
The Yankees simply didn't play well on Thursday. The Rangers broke the game open with three runs in both the fifth and seventh innings, as the heart of the Rangers' batting order -- especially Mark Teixeira (4-for-5, three doubles and three RBIs) -- got to Wang and Co.
While Wang's sinker worked to perfection against Seattle last Saturday, when he threw 7 1/3 perfect innings, it wasn't the same on Thursday.
"The last game, the sinker went down," Wang (1-3) said. "Today, it was more flat."
That was the Rangers' plan, according to manager Ron Washington.
"We just tried to get him to get the ball up," Washington said. "I've been on the other side when he's getting ground ball after ground ball after ground ball. Today, we wanted to make him get the ball up. We had some good at-bats and made him work."
Wang yielded seven runs on 11 hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings, striking out two.
Vizcaino came in to relieve Wang in the troublesome seventh inning and allowed another three runs on two hits and a pair of walks. Henn had the tougher outing, though, surrendering the grand slam to Diaz and letting in four runs while recording just two outs.
Just about the only highlight for the Yankees came from Melky Cabrera, who cranked his first home run of the season in the third inning off Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy (3-4). It was Cabrera's first homer since Aug. 10, 2006, also hit off McCarthy when the lanky right-hander was a member of the Chicago White Sox.
Peter Zellen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less