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Jeter, A-Rod carrying Yanks' offense

Jeter, A-Rod carrying Yanks' offense

PHILADELPHIA -- All postseason, the Yankees' left side has been their strong side.

No, it's not about southpaws CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the hill; rather, it's the potent left side of the infield, with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez carrying much of the offensive load in the 2009 playoffs.

While the other half of the infield has struggled mightily throughout the postseason -- Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano have combined to go 21-for-111 with 13 RBIs -- Jeter and Rodriguez have picked up the slack and been postseason constants for the Bronx Bombers.

With his first-inning double to score Johnny Damon, Rodriguez set a new franchise record for most RBIs in a single postseason with 16. He added two more on another double in the eighth that pulled the Yankees back within striking distance.

The third baseman has six playoff home runs and has driven in a run in all but three games this postseason -- all this after enduring four years of questions surrounding a recent playoff history that included a .159 average and just one RBI in his previous 13 postseason games.

This October -- and now, November -- Rodriguez has long since passed the point of compensating for past playoff shortcomings; now, he's writing himself not just into Yankees lore but playoff history. His 18 RBIs are one shy of a Major League record currently held by David Ortiz, Scott Spiezio and Sandy Alomar Jr.

Just as impressive as the quantity of Rodriguez's RBIs has been their quality. These aren't the stat-stuffing late-game home runs Rodriguez has been oft-criticized for -- however unjustly -- in the past. He has hit two game-tying home runs off opposing closers, and on Sunday, A-Rod drove in the eventual game-winning run with two outs in Game 4 off Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge.

Rodriguez himself hasn't shed too much light on what's facilitated the about-face in his playoff fortunes. He's stuck to saying that he's "locked in" and "feeling good" and "swinging at strikes."

A-Rod nearing RBI record
Most RBIs in a single postseason
Rank Player Team Year RBIs
1. D. Ortiz BOS 2005 19
S. Spiezio ANA 2002 19
S. Alomar Jr. CLE 1997 19
4. A. Rodriguez NYY 2009 18
5. I. Rodriguez FLA 2003 17
R. Aurilia SF 2002 17
J. Valentin BOS 1999 17
8. B.J. Upton TB 2008 16
B. Bonds SF 2002 16
B. Santiago SF 2002 16
F. McGriff ATL 1996 16
12. R. Howard PHI 2009 15
M. Alou FLA 1997 15
B. Williams NYY 1996 15
15. R. Jackson NYY 1978 14

Rodriguez's teammates haven't been much more successful in articulating how exactly he's doing what he is doing at the plate, settling for shrugs of the shoulders and simplicities such as what Damon said following A-Rod's game-winning double in Game 4: "We really enjoy the way he's playing."

At the same time, Rodriguez isn't just knocking in himself, and it's no coincidence that he keeps coming up in run-producing situations. A lot of the credit goes to the guy who plays next to him on the infield and sets the table for the Yankees' lineup.

The Yankees' captain is the only player on either team with a hit in all five World Series games. In fact, Jeter has a knock in 14 of his past 16 games in the Fall Classic, dating back to 2001.

Of course, Jeter's postseason reputation is, by now, seemingly beyond reproach. He has become such a consistent hitter in October that it's almost stunning when he doesn't come through, as was the case in Game 5's ninth inning. Jeter came up as the tying run with nobody out against Ryan Madson, only to ground into a 6-4-3 double play.

"He threw a good pitch," Jeter said afterward of the 2-1 two-seamer he saw from Madson. "You understand why he's so tough, especially on right-handers."

Jeter was quick to move on, anxious to head back to the Bronx with a chance to close out the Phillies in front of the home crowd.

"We have a good feeling," Jeter said. "We came here into a tough place to play and won a couple games."

And why shouldn't the Yankees have a good feeling? With a left side of the infield like theirs, everything should turn out all right.

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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