NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez limped around the clubhouse, went to a hospital to have his sore right ankle checked out, talked his way into the lineup upon his return to Yankee Stadium and then homered twice in an inning for a key win over Seattle.
Even for a star slugger, it was a monumental night.
``I'm counting ahead when Alex is going to break Barry Bonds' records,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game. ``You figure he's going to hit 100 every two years - that's what his ability seems to dictate.''
In Wednesday night's 10-2 victory, Rodriguez became the fourth Yankees player to homer twice in an inning, joining Joe DiMaggio (June 24, 1936), Joe Pepitone (May 23, 1962) and Cliff Johnson (June 30, 1977).
The two-time AL MVP walked and popped out in his first two plate appearances against Jarrod Washburn (9-13). Then, with the Yankees trailing 2-1, Rodriguez hit a 3-2 fastball into Monument Park in left-center leading off the seventh. With New York ahead 7-2, he drove a 2-1 pitch from Brandon Morrow into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. A-Rod rounded the bases, received congratulations in the dugout and emerged for his second curtain call of the inning.
With 3 1/2 weeks remaining the regular season, Rodriguez leads the majors with 48 homers and 134 RBIs to go with a .312 average. His performance is a big reason the Yankees opened a three-game lead in the AL wild-card race over the Mariners, who lost for the 11th time in 12 games.
``I can't relate to it,'' Derek Jeter said. ``It's unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it in all my years playing.''
His ankle banged up following a collision with Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre on Tuesday, Rodriguez got to the ballpark at 2:30 p.m. and pronounced himself ``ready to roll.'' Getting into a car and heading for a scan wasn't what he had in mind.
``We get any of us old folks in that MRI machine for an hour, who knows what the hell the thing is going to say,'' Rodriguez said. ``I knew I felt good enough to play, and I came with the mind-set ready to play.''
About an hour before game time, Torre said A-Rod likely would be limited to pinch-hitting duty, and Rodriguez returned from the hospital thinking there was a 75 percent chance he wouldn't play. He said had it been early in the year, he would have sat out.
Still, he met with Torre in the manager's office.
``He said: 'Let me just go out and run and see,''' Torre said.
A-Rod then tested his ankle with a few jogs in right field while the Mariners were finishing batting practice. He ran in foul territory toward the dugout, up a runway and into the Yankees' clubhouse.
``I've got to talk to the manager,'' he said with a determined look.
Torre and the medical staff gathered with Rodriguez in the trainers' room for about 10-12 minutes.
``He wanted to look at me in the eyes and make sure that I wasn't lying to him and do something stupid or silly,'' Rodriguez said. ``I told him I could give him some quality at-bats.''
Sure could.
His first homer tied Mel Ott on the career list, and his second matched Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 17th place at 512. Rodriguez had the 51st multihomer game of his career, yet he felt only 60 percent because of the ankle and his sore knee, and he didn't think he could play the field for several days. His first home run came less than a minute after the Yankees announced the MRI exam revealed a sprain and a bruise.
``He didn't call us this morning saying it was a problem, but I think when our trainers saw that he was limping a little bit, that they alerted our doctor,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. ``I think he probably thinks it's a waste of time. He self-diagnosed that he is fine.''

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