"It's just been too long," manager Joe Girardi said of the third baseman's slump.
Girardi pinch-hit for Rodriguez on Saturday for the third time this postseason, replacing him with Eric Chavez in the eighth inning with right-handed reliever Joaquin Benoit on the mound.
Rodriguez went 0-for-3 before returning to the bench, hearing familiar boos at Yankee Stadium in the sixth when he swung at and missed a curveball to cap a three-pitch strikeout against starter Doug Fister with runners on second and third. Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending double play in his second at-bat, helping the 47,122 in attendance forget about his first RBI opportunity, when Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta robbed A-Rod of a hit and his first RBI this postseason.
Rodriguez ripped the first pitch he saw from Fister into the hole between third base and shortstop, but Peralta dove to his right to backhand the ball and fired to second base, narrowly beating Raul Ibanez for a forceout to leave the bases loaded, which the Yankees did two other times in the series opener.
"The first at-bat, he had a good at-bat," Girardi said.
Rodriguez did not speak with the media before or after his return to the starting lineup. Girardi benched Rodriguez for Game 5 of the AL Division Series against Baltimore after pinch-hitting for him in Games 3 and 4. Rodriguez made the final out of a Game 2 loss at Baltimore before Girardi took the bat out of his hands in the ninth and 13th innings, respectively, of the next two games, with the Yankees trailing each time.
Rodriguez is 2-for-19 this postseason with two singles, two walks and a run scored. He has struck out 10 times.
Rodriguez is hitless against right-handed pitchers this postseason after hitting .256 (81-for-317) against them during the regular season. Girardi has a left-handed-hitting option at third base in Chavez, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts after replacing Rodriguez in Game 1 of the ALCS but was 16-for-31 with eight runs scored and five RBIs against Detroit in the regular season.
Girardi will have opportunities to use Chavez in a lefty-righty matchup for the remainder of the series, as Detroit will start a right-handed pitcher in each game, but the manager said before Game 1 that he needs Rodriguez's potential, and that is magnified by Jeter's loss.
"If we want to make some noise," Girardi said, "we need this guy to be Alex."