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Thursday, August 22, 2013
First Pitch: A-Rod back in the lineup

By Kieran Darcy

NEW YORK -- The Alex Rodriguez Show returns to Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Rodriguez was given the day off Wednesday, after playing in both games of the doubleheader Tuesday. But he still managed to make news, announcing that he instructed his legal team to "shut down" the off-the-field talk so he can focus on baseball the rest of the season.

If he has been distracted of late, he's done a good job of playing through it. Despite going 1-for-7 with five strikeouts on Tuesday, A-Rod is batting .296 since making his season debut on Aug. 5, with two home runs and six RBIs. His batting average and on-base percentage (.387) are remarkably similar to his career numbers (.300 BA, .384 OB).

Furthermore, the Yankees are 9-5 in the 14 games Rodriguez has played in thus far -- and 9-2 since being swept in Chicago in his first three games.

Will he perform even better now that he's told his lawyers to simmer down? Perhaps a little. Will the fans treat him any differently? He might hear a few more cheers and a few less boos.

In the end, his reception at Yankee Stadium the rest of the season will inevitably be linked to performance -- his, and the team's.

The Yanks are averaging 3.8 runs per game without A-Rod, and averaging 5.6 runs per game with him. Numbers don't lie.

So far, the Alex Rodriguez Show is a big hit in the Bronx.

UP NOW: Ichiro Suzuki collected career hit No. 4,000 on Wednesday night. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 4-2, thanks to clutch performances by Alfonso Soriano and David Huff, but lost Jayson Nix to a serious injury.

Ian O'Connor writes that if Joe Girardi leads the Yankees into the postseason, it will be the best managing job in the Bronx since Joe Torre in '96.

ON DECK: The Yanks go for a four-game sweep of the Jays, with Andy Pettitte (8-9, 4.39) on the mound, opposed by fellow lefty J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.93). First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Andrew Marchand and Mike Mazzeo will have you covered from the Stadium.

QUESTION: What do you think of A-Rod's announcement on Wednesday?