With the Yankee Stadium crowd eager to witness history, Alex Rodriguez is in prime position to achieve his latest milestone.
Considering his success versus Justin Verlander, there’s a good chance it could happen Friday night (6 p.m. pregame, 7:05 first pitch on FOX Sports Detroit) when New York faces a Detroit Tigers team that should have Victor Martinez available.
After reaching 2,999 career hits by recording two for a second straight night, Rodriguez walked in his final at-bat Thursday as the crowd stood ready to snap the camera on their cell phones in the eighth inning of a 9-4 win over Miami.
"The fans just want to see the players do well, that’s the bottom line, and he has done well," manager Joe Girardi said of the support for Rodriguez, who has come back strong from a season-long drug suspension. "Sometimes people pull for people to fight back and get back up, when they’ve been knocked down."
Rodriguez, who earlier this season eclipsed 2,000 RBIs and passed Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list – he is now sitting on 666 – is set to become the 29th player to reach 3,000 hits.
"I don’t even know how to describe it. It feels great," said Rodriguez, who is batting .413 with eight RBIs in his last 13 at home.
Rodriguez has hit .357 (10 for 28) with four home runs and a double during the regular season against Verlander, whose scheduled start Thursday at Cincinnati was rained out.
After missing the first two-plus months with a strained triceps, the right-hander threw 87 pitches and allowed two runs in five innings before Cleveland rallied for a 5-4 win Saturday.
"Felt good to be on a big-league mound. Felt pretty good overall," he said. "The rhythm wasn’t quite there, but overall I felt pretty good. Hopefully, the body and arm respond well moving forward."
Since 2011, Verlander had thrown fewer than 90 pitches in only three starts prior to Saturday with an average of 111.4 in that span. The plan is to gradually extend him back to his normal workload.
"Moving forward, a couple starts down the road, it would be a no-brainer," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But right now, I think it was a smart move."
In his only start versus New York (35-30) last season, Verlander allowed solo homers to Brian McCann and Chase Headley over seven innings of a 5-1 defeat Aug. 6.
All signs point to Martinez being in the Tigers’ lineup for the first time since going on the disabled list May 19 with inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee.
"He feels good," Ausmus said. "He feels like he’s ready."
Struggling with a .216 average, one homer and 15 RBIs in 34 games, Martinez went 5 for 17 with a double in four minor league rehab starts. He went 0 for 13 in his last four major league contests and is 0 for 10 in four versus New York this season.
Martinez went 0 for 4 earlier this year against Adam Warren (4-4, 3.78 ERA), who is 2-3 with a 4.91 ERA in seven road starts but 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in five at Yankee Stadium.
As the right-hander tries to win his third straight home start, he’ll need to be more efficient after yielding three runs, six hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of Sunday’s 5-3 victory at Baltimore.
He gave up four first-inning runs to go with five hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 13-4 win at Detroit on April 22. Miguel Cabrera went 1 for 2 against Warren in that contest and is 11 for 22 with three homers and 12 RBIs in his last six games.