CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The stage was set for Alex Rodriguez, a chance to celebrate his 35th birthday with a ninth-inning, game-tying home run that would make him only the seventh Major League Baseball player to hit 600 career homers.
But the stadium lights dimmed shortly after A-Rod bounced meekly to short to end a 4-1 victory for the Cleveland Indians over the New York Yankees on Tuesday.
"I saw an opportunity to get a big hit to at least keep the rally going," Rodriguez said about his ninth-inning chance with Brett Gardner on third and Derek Jeter on first.
"The number one thing is you want is to get a big hit, hit the ball hard somewhere. A home run would be fantastic, not to get 600 but to tie the game."
Rodriguez grounded out three times in the game and hit a long fly to right-center in the seventh that was caught just in front of the warning track.
A-Rod is hitless in eight at-bats after two games of a four-game series in Cleveland.
"For me, the biggest thing is to stay within the game and not try to do too much," Rodriguez told reporters, admitting that a few times in recent days he had "tried to swing too hard or maybe got a little pull happy."
"As long as I swing at strikes and think big part of the field, like that ball to right-center, good things are going to happen," he said.
Good things happened Tuesday for 25-year-old Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who kept the Bronx Bombers off balance as he notched a victory in his major league debut.
"He threw the ball extremely well," said Rodriguez. "He kept working ahead of guys. For the most part, I don't think we had any good swings against him."
Rodriguez, who had hit five home runs on his birthday over the years, will get another crack at joining the 600-club Wednesday when Cleveland starts right-hander Fausto Carmona (10-7).
Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Steve Ginsburg