'Hart of the Order'
By Sean Hartnett
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Alex Rodriguez has been bewitched by the slider of Darren O'Day.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has twice called on O'Day as his "A-Rod specialist." In the opening two games of the 2012 ALDS, Rodriguez has failed to put the ball in play against the sidearmer.
O'Day's arm angle and sweeping slider has A-Rod producing ugly cuts and stranding base runners. He has left three runners on base in his two ALDS matchups against O'Day, striking out on both occasions.
Rodriguez is a career 1-for-7 against O'Day with four strikeouts. Showalter will continue to summon his righty specialist from the bullpen -- it's up to A-Rod to figure out O'Day's slider and fine-tune his batting mechanics.
There's nowhere for A-Rod to hide. Joe Girardi isn't ready to drop him in the batting order. As the Yankees' No. 3 hitter, he's going to have to start carrying his share of the offensive load.
So far in this series, Rodriguez is 1-for-9 with five strikeouts, including the game-ending whiff in Game 2 against Baltimore's fire-balling closer Jim Johnson. A-Rod has left seven runners on base and is without an extra base hit.
Since his monster 2009 playoffs, A-Rod is hitting .169 in 59 postseason at-bats with no home runs and 17 strikeouts. Rodriguez has extended his playoff homer-less streak to 70 at-bats.
His last regular-season home run came on Sept. 14 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Including postseason play, Rodriguez only has one RBI in his last 16 games.
A-Rod is paid handsomely to drive in runs in key situations. Right now, his lethargic at-bats are giving the Orioles the chance to pitch around hot-hitting Robinson Cano.
Unless Rodriguez finds his stroke in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, Girardi must drop A-Rod down the order. With struggling batters Rodriguez and Nick Swisher sandwiched between Cano, Showalter can choose to avoid the Yankees' most fearsome hitter.
Wherever Girardi chooses to bat A-Rod, the Yankees need him to break out of his postseason malaise if they wish to get past the Orioles and advance to the ALCS.
Will Orioles pitchers continue their mastery of A-Rod? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.
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