published Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Wiedmer: A grand slam for all-time

  • photo
    New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez reacts after hitting a grand slam to tie the game 4-4 in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Atlanta. New York won 6-4.
    Photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — You don't see history made every night. Especially the tying of an iconic record that's lasted 74 years.

But that's what current New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez did to all-time Yankees great Lou Gehrig on Tuesday night at Turner Field.

With one mighty swing of the bat he tied Gehrig's major league record for grand slams with 23, much to the chagrin of the Atlanta Braves.

Not that the Rodriguez's slam technically resulted in the home team losing 6-4. That required a two-run blast from fellow Yankee Nick Swisher two batters after Rodriguez sent a Jonny Venters pitch over the left field wall.

But Rodriguez was the difference maker, as perhaps the highest paid player in the game should be.

“It's not just that he was one of the all-time greats,” said Rodriguez in the winner's locker room. “He's (Gehrig) one of ours. He's one of those guys that when I'm asked if you could eat dinner with anybody in the world living or dead, he has to be in my top four or five.”

This is what happens when a team collectively paid nearly $200 million a year (the Yankees) meets a team making $87 million a year.

More times than not, talent prevails.

Or as Swisher said, “We're more designed to hit home runs than anything.”

And at 9:30 Tuesday night, that's just what Rodriguez did after working the count full. He crushed a — in his words — “middle-in pitch,” to turn a 4-0 Braves lead into a 4-4 tie.

When Swisher matched his might two batters later against Rhea County High School product Cory Gearrin, Atlanta was pretty much finished.

Not that it's ever that simple, of course.

Until Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez decided to lift starting pitcher Mike Minor with one on and one out in the eighth, Atlanta was piecing together the kind of crafty triumph that sometimes sparks greatness.

There had been the three-run double by Matt Diaz in the first inning off New York lefty starter C.C. Sabathia, who just happens to be the sixth highest-paid player in baseball. Normally a reserve, Diaz was starting in place of Jason Heyward at least partly because Heyward is batting .194 against lefthanders compared to Diaz's .311.

But that double also lifted Diaz's career average against Sabathia to a preposterous .600 (6 of 10).

So until the eighth, Gonzalez was looking pretty sharp. But then Minor gave up a single with one out and Gonzalez turned to Venters.

Then the Yankees turned it on as more of the crowd of 41,452 than one might expect chanted, “Let's go, Yankees; Let's go, Yankees.”

Said New York skipper Joe Girardi: “That's the thing with Alex, you always feel like you've got a chance with him at the plate.”

And so they did.

They won their eighth game in 10 tries inside Turner Field since the American and National Leagues decided to play each other in the regular season.

More than that, they served notice with their fifth straight win that they're clearly the team to beat in the American League.

And just in case anyone was wondering, no one should expect Rodriguez and Gehrig to remain tied forever.

“They won't be tied long,” said Swisher. “That was unbelievable. Awesome. But that's Alex.”

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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