NEW YORK -- As the ball he belted soared into the Bronx night and the crowd began to roar, Alex Rodriguez briefly admired his work before going into his home run trot.
On Old Timers' Day, it was the oldest player on the New York Yankees who stole the headlines yet again, providing quite the encore after a historic Friday night.
A day after reaching the 3,000-hit plateau with a solo shot, A-Rod homered and drove in five runs, carrying the Yankees in a 14-3 rout of the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium.
"I hope he's enjoying it. I'd be enjoying it if I was him," Brett Gardner said of Rodriguez, who is hitting .538 with two homers and eight RBIs in his past four games. "That's some pretty special company that he's entered into with the RBIs (2,009), hits (3,002) and the homers (668). It's been a lot of fun for us to watch him work and watch him play."
Through his first 64 games, the 39-year-old designated hitter, who missed all of last season due to being suspended by Major League Baseball for using performance-enhancing drugs, has amassed 14 home runs, 40 RBIs and a .915 OPS.
"He's pretty much been the same guy since Day 1 of spring training," said Gardner, who finished a homer shy of the cycle. "I think last night was maybe a little emotional for him getting 3,000 in the way that he did it with his daughters here getting to see him. But for the most part he's been his normal upbeat self and works hard. I think he's just really -- with all the time he's had off with the injuries and what not -- he's just really enjoying himself, enjoying being back here, and this is where he feels comfortable, on a baseball field."
It sure looks that way.
A-Rod, who left the clubhouse before he could be interviewed by reporters, moved into sole possession of 28th place on the all-time hits list when he clubbed a three-run homer off left-hander Ian Krol that landed in the left-field seats. Krol tried to beat Rodriguez with a fastball inside and paid for it.
That’s what A-Rod is doing these days -- making opposing pitchers pay for their mistakes.
The Yankees certainly wouldn't be where they are -- eight games over .500 (38-30), winners of four in a row and 12-5 in June -- without Rodriguez consistently delivering in the middle of their lineup.
No one -- not even the most optimistic of fans -- could’ve expected this heading into the season.
"I just think he's thriving on being back in the game, something that was almost taken away," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes we get up and we can take some things for granted. Just getting up every day we take for granted, and sometimes when you go through some scares, you come back more relaxed, happy and know how lucky you are to be able to put a uniform on, and I think he's thriving off of that."
It seems like Rodriguez is a fan favorite again. And as long as he continues to produce, it'll stay that way.
Gardner produced with his bat and his glove, Carlos Beltran homered from both sides of the plate, Didi Gregorius was terrific and Nathan Eovaldi bounced back from a poor outing. Overall, the Yankees had 14 runs (tied season-high), 18 hits (season-high) and five homers (tied season-high).
But this night belonged to A-Rod.