On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, in the second inning of World Series Game 2 on Thursday night, Martinez then bent a curveball over the inside corner, freezing Rodriguez and sending him back to the bench.
"It was a great battle," Rodriguez said. "I had some great cuts. I'd like to take some of those swings back."
And some of the ensuing at-bats, as well. Twice more, Rodriguez struck out in the game, finishing 0-for-4 and falling to 0-for-8 with six strikeouts over two World Series games. After enjoying the postseason of his dreams for three straight weeks, Rodriguez suddenly stood humbled after Game 2, facing the supposition that his October bubble may have finally burst.
"It's eight at-bats," he said, shrugging off that notion following the Yankees' 3-1 victory. "I'm not concerned at all. The guys picked me up today, we won one, and there's a lot of baseball left."
The Yankees can only hope this play has three acts. First was the success, Rodriguez vanquishing his demons of postseasons past with some of the most stellar baseball October had ever seen. To put some numbers on it, Rodriguez hit .438 over the first two rounds of the playoffs, blasting five home runs, knocking in 12 runs and recording at least one hit in all nine games.
This next act has not been as kind. After his 0-for-4 performance in Game 1 remained partially hidden by the rest of his team's struggles, Rodriguez could not escape the reality of another hitless day in Game 2. Worse, he misplayed Matt Stairs' RBI single in the second inning, on a ball that easily could have been ruled an error.
WORLD SERIES DROUGHT
|ALDS, Game 1||4||2||1||0||0||2|
|ALDS, Game 2||4||2||1||0||1||3|
|ALDS, Game 3||3||1||2||1||1||1|
|ALCS, Game 1||2||1||0||1||0||1|
|ALCS, Game 2||6||1||1||0||1||1|
|ALCS, Game 3||4||1||1||1||1||1|
|ALCS, Game 4||4||3||3||1||1||2|
|ALCS, Game 5||3||1||1||2||0||0|
|ALCS, Game 6||2||2||0||3||0||1|
|WS, Game 1||4||0||0||0||0||0|
|WS, Game 2||4||0||0||0||0||0|
The Yankees, naturally, remain unworried, crossing their fingers for a reversal in Act III. Rodriguez is still batting .350 during the postseason, and remains capable of shrugging off his slide at any moment. But his track record has forced others to point to the warning signs.
"I know he'll bounce back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Obviously, you want him to continue on the torrid pace that he was on, but he'll bounce back, and we'll get it going with him in Philly."
Just as his struggles in Game 1 were masked by the dominance of Cliff Lee, Rodriguez's 0-for-4 Thursday was largely ignored thanks to the contributions of his teammates. Mark Teixeira, hitting directly in front of Rodriguez, homered in the fourth inning to tie the game at 1. And Hideki Matsui, hitting directly behind him, gave the Yankees their first lead with a solo shot in the sixth.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, did nothing -- and relished it.
"I think they're being careful," he said. "But overall, I'm just glad that I got picked up today by the boys in front of and behind me. Obviously, Teixeira and Matsui had two big home runs, and I'm going to be fine."
"The great thing is, all season we've had guys pick each other up," Teixeira said. "The first couple series, Alex carried the entire offense, really. He hasn't gotten any hits, but I'm going to bet that Alex is going to be fine the rest of the Series. And if not, then hopefully me or a couple other guys are going to step it up and do what we've done all season."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.