Alex Rodriguez really wanted to hit home run No. 661 Thursday night.
In his first at-bat of the Yankees' 4-3 victory over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, A-Rod was robbed of the long ball that would have broken his tie with Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list when the Orioles' Delmon Young reached over the rightfield wall to make a leaping catch.
But Rodriguez was not going to be denied his place in history on this night.
In his second at-bat, in the third inning, A-Rod launched a majestic drive into deepest left-centerfield. The ball cleared the fence and went into a loading-dock area just to the left of Monument Park to give Rodriguez a milestone home run the Yankees had no monetary reason to ignore -- even if they didn't exactly go crazy celebrating it.
The Yankees briefly noted the achievement with a message on the centerfield scoreboard that was visible for less than 10 seconds.
Rodriguez tied Mays with his 660th home run Friday night in Boston. The Yankees have said they will not pay Rodriguez a $6-million marketing bonus he was to receive when he tied Mays. The Yankees' position is Rodriguez's milestone is not marketable because of his past PED use. Rodriguez has not said if he is going to file a grievance over the Yankees' refusal to pay.
Rodriguez ended the night 53 home runs away from tying Babe Ruth for third place with 714. As it stands now, that home run would trigger another $6 million marketing bonus, and, perhaps, another dispute.
Rodriguez's contract also calls for three other $6 million bonuses: if he ties Hank Aaron (755) for second place and ties and then passes Barry Bonds (762) for first place. The disputed bonuses total a potential $30 million for Rodriguez.
After taking sole possession of fourth place Thursday night, Rodriguez was given a standing ovation and a curtain call by the crowd of 39,816. He came out of the dugout and raised both arms in triumph.
"It's obviously a big deal," Brett Gardner said. "There's a lot of questions surrounding everything, but still 661 home runs is a lot. 650 more than I've got, I think. I see how hard Alex works every day and how much he loves to win and how much he loves to compete. I'm really happy for him."
Rodriguez's seventh home run of his comeback campaign after a season-long suspension because of his role in the Biogenesis scandal came on a 1-and-1 pitch from Baltimore righthander Chris Tillman (2-4). Rodriguez, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, is 6-for-12 with four homers against Tillman.
Nathan Eovaldi (3-0) allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings for the victory. He gave up six hits, walked three and struck out three in a 102-pitch effort.
Once again, the Yankees bullpen was outstanding. Justin Wilson threw 1 1/3 perfect innings, Dellin Betances struck out one in a 1-2-3 eighth and Andrew Miller survived a leadoff walk in the ninth by retiring the next three with two strikeouts for his 12th save.
Eovaldi gave up a solo home run to Jimmy Paredes in the first inning. The Yankees scored twice in the bottom half on A-Rod's near home run (a sacrifice fly) and Mark Teixeira's RBI single.
Baltimore tied it at 2 when Caleb Joseph homered in the third. A-Rod's homer made it 3-2, but the O's tied it again when Travis Snider and Joseph hit back-to-back doubles in the fifth. Finally, the Yankees took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth when Gardner doubled and scored one out later on a double by Teixeira (2-for-3, walk, two RBIs).