NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez homered for his 3,000th career hit and smiled all the way around the bases as the New York Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers 7-2 Friday night, the highlight so far in what’s become a resurgent season for the formerly disgraced slugger.
Rodriguez wasted no time, connecting in the first inning on a first-pitch fastball clocked at 95 miles per hour from Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
Out of baseball last year while serving a drug suspension, Rodriguez became the 29th player in major league history to reach 3,000 hits. He was the first to do it since Yankees great Derek Jeter homered from the very same batter’s box in 2011.
Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius also homered as the Yankees won their third in a row. Detroit has lost four of six.
With the crowd at Yankee Stadium standing in anticipation, Rodriguez sent a high drive to right field. He held onto the bat as he took a few steps toward first base, and outfielder J.D. Martinez bumped into the wall as he backed up.
Fans roared as the ball sailed a half-dozen rows into the seats.
Retrieving the souvenir ball might be harder for Rodriguez than hitting it. Zack Hample, a 37-year-old who describes himself as a professional home run ball catcher, wound up with the prize souvenir and said he had no intention of giving it back.
A day earlier, Hample tweeted that Rodriguez “deserves favors from no one, least of all a fan.” In the late innings, Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said the man “wouldn’t engage at all” in negotiations to reclaim the ball.
Adam Warren (5-4) gave up two runs in a career-high eight innings. He beat Detroit for the second time this season.
Verlander (0-1) lost in his second start of the season and the 300th of his career. He began the season on the disabled list with a strained right triceps.
Verlander gave up six runs and 10 hits in 6⅔ innings. He fell to 0-4 at the new Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez pointed to the crowd a couple of times and blew a kiss to someone behind the backstop after crossing the plate. He was greeted by Mark Teixeira and other teammates between the plate and the dugout, and got a big hug from manager Joe Girardi.
The only other players to hit a homer for No. 3,000 were Jeter and Wade Boggs.
Rodriguez turns 40 next month. The three-time AL MVP launched his 13th homer of the season and has enjoyed a productive year as a designated hitter after returning from his suspension.