A-Rod plunked, Yankees ... relieved?

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez did not hit his 600th career home run on Sunday. Nonetheless, Rodriguez, the New York Yankees and their fans are breathing sighs of relief.

In the eighth inning of a 12-6 win over the Kansas City Royals, Rodriguez was hit by a 95 mph fastball, thrown up and in by Royals reliever Blake Wood.

Rodriguez dropped to the ground and didn't move for a few seconds as the crowd gasped, fearful that he had been hit in the face.

He eventually got to his feet, and was removed from the game for pinch runner Juan Miranda.

As it turns out, the ball connected with his left hand, and not dead-on. Rodriguez had only a small, purple bruise on his left hand after the game, and did not need to have the hand X-rayed.

Rodriguez said he felt "pretty much full strength" in his left hand after the game, and said that without question he would be able to play on Monday night in Cleveland.

"Obviously the hand is so sensitive. It's very easy to break a bone or chip a bone," Rodriguez said. "I'm just glad that none of that happened."

"Scary moment," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's such a big part of our club."

Neither Rodriguez nor Girardi thought that A-Rod getting hit was intentional on the Royals' part.

The plunking overshadowed the fact that for the third straight game, Rodriguez failed to hit home run No. 600 after hitting No. 599 on Thursday night.

The fans were desperate to witness history -- several thousand of them sat through a 2-hour, 32-minute rain delay in the sixth inning, undoubtedly just to see A-Rod get one or two more at-bats.

"Today was amazing," Rodriguez said. "They stuck around. I'm just disappointed that we couldn't share the moment together."

The Yankees were flying to Cleveland immediately after Sunday's game to begin a seven-game road trip against the Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays -- meaning A-Rod's 600th home run will now likely come on the road.

Rodriguez admitted he was swinging for the fences in that final at-bat in the eighth inning, with the Yankees comfortably ahead 9-3. In fact, on the pitch immediately preceding the one that hit him, A-Rod swung so hard at a 96 mph fastball that his legs buckled and he fell to one knee.

"Oh, there's no question about it," Rodriguez said, when asked if he was trying for a home run. "I mean, these fans waited for two hours. I was trying to imitate Reggie Jackson. I even went down on one knee. That was the most dangerous moment of the day, I think."

Another thing overshadowed by the plunking is that A-Rod, despite the lack of a home run in the final three games of this series, had three pretty darn good games. He went 5-for-12 overall, not including the hit-by-pitch. On Sunday, he had a double, a single and two runs batted in.

"I got some hits, drove in some runs, and most importantly we won three out of four [in the series] and continue to play good baseball," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is not having one of the best seasons of his career. But, rather quietly, he has now amassed 81 RBIs, placing him second in the major leagues, behind only the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera.

Just imagine what the Yankees' lineup would have looked like if that 95 mph fastball was just a little higher and tighter.

"We got lucky," Girardi said.

Despite the absence of home run No. 600, they most certainly did.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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