DETROIT - What could have been a September showdown between the teams with the two biggest payrolls in baseball instead had very little impact on the pennant races.
Thanks to a guy known as "Pudge," it wasn't devoid of emotion.
Alex Rodriguez sparked a scoring barrage with a two-run single in the first inning and added an RBI in each of the next two frames to help the New York Yankees build a huge cushion they needed in a 13-9 win over the Detroit Tigers yesterday.
Perhaps the only intriguing moment in the listless game that lasted nearly four hours happened in the second inning when Ivan Rodriguez came to the plate.
He was greeted with a standing ovation in his first game against the Tigers since they traded him. Rodriguez acknowledged the fans by taking off his helmet and waving to the sold-out crowd.
"That was special," he said. "I appreciated that very, very, very much. It was great. It means that in the four years I was here, I did a good job and the fans appreciated that."
The Yankees and Tigers played a makeup game after a matchup in May was rained out. The teams with the highest payrolls in baseball combined for a performance that seemed as significant and stirring as a Grapefruit League exhibition. New York's opening-day payroll, counting players on the disabled list, was $209.1 million and Detroit's was $138.7 million.
Both underachieving teams began the final month with double-digit deficits in their divisions. The Yankees began the day seven games behind the Red Sox in the AL wild card race.
"You can't take anything for granted," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez signed with the Tigers after they lost an AL-record 119 games in 2004, then helped them reach the World Series in 2006.
He will be a 37-year-old free agent this offseason.
"Physically, I know he can still play every day," manager Joe Girardi said.
"How many more years he can do it? I don't know."
Alex Rodriguez's four RBIs helped the Yankees take an 11-2 lead, but they were ahead by just two runs following five innings after giving up homers to Gary Sheffield, Miguel Cabrera, and Brandon Inge.
Derek Jeter drove in one of two runs in the sixth, padding the lead to 13-9.
"The bottom line is that we won the game," Girardi said.
Justin Verlander (10-15) lasted a career-low 12/3 innings and gave up eight runs - five earned - and seven hits with two walks.
"I'll make this easy for you," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in a 9-second address to reporters. "We basically threw a lot of balls when we should've thrown strikes and we threw some strikes when we should've thrown balls.
"And, that's the end of the conversation. I'll see you later."
Verlander agreed with Leyland's assessment.
"The bad pitches I threw got hit and the good ones got hit as well," said Verlander, who was booed as he walked to the dugout when Leyland replaced him.
"It's one of those days you've got to get behind you."
Verlander has had a lot of starts he'd like to forget this season after being the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter, start a World Series game, and be Rookie of the Year and an all-star in his first two full seasons.
He won 35 games the previous two years and trailed only Dwight Gooden's 41 victories among pitchers in their first two full seasons since 1970.
Brian Bruney (2-0) got the win for pitching 12/3 scoreless innings in the middle of the game.
Sidney Ponson started and gave up seven runs - six earned - and nine hits over three innings.
"I didn't do what I was supposed to do," Ponson said.
In his major-league debut, Phil Coke struck out two, including Cabrera with one on to get out of the seventh inning to maintain New York's four-run lead.
NOTES: Gary Sheffield's 494th homer moved him past Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 25th on baseball's all-time list. ... Cabrera has hit 22 of his 30 homers since June 10. ... Retired Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr threw out the ceremonial first pitch, then pumped his fist.42.33168 -83.04792