Rodriguez snapped an 0-for-12 skid with a RBI single in the 10th inning, helping the Yankees finish a 4-2 comeback victory over the Devil Rays, who elected to pitch to the two-time American League MVP with first base open and runners at second and third.
Hideki Matsui was on deck.
"Matsui, to me, is one of the best clutch hitters in all of baseball, so I prefer not pitching to him. You take your chances right there on A-Rod," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"Their whole lineup gives you something to think about, but you set your strategy. It doesn't mean that what we did was wrong, it just didn't work out. ... You pick your poison. We chose ours, and we ate it."
Rodriguez has only two hits in his last 18 at-bats and is hitting .242 with runners in scoring position. He broke a 2-2 tie with a line drive to center off Ruddy Lugo, driving in Johnny Damon, who led off the 10th with a ground-rule double off Tyler Walker (0-2).
Matsui, who the Devil Rays planned to walk if Rodriguez had made an out, followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2.
While Lugo was being summoned from the bullpen to replace Walker, Yankees manager Joe Torre called Rodriguez back to the dugout.
"It's weird. You don't get called from the on-deck circle unless they're pinch-hitting for you," Rodriguez said. "He just basically said no matter how it goes, just trust it, swing it and don't worry about it."
Torre said he actually had intended to talk to A-Rod before he went to the on-deck circle.
"He just gets to the point where he tries to do too much. That's basically what it is," Torre said. "I said just trust that the ball will find a hole somewhere and have an at-bat where you're going to make good contact."
Light-hitting Tomas Perez hit a two-run homer off Yankees right-hander Jaret Wright to give the Devil Rays a 2-0 lead in the fifth. Pinch-hitters Jorge Posada and Miguel Cairo drove in runs charged to Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum to make it 2-2 in the seventh.
Perez was an unlikely candidate to snap a scoreless tie, considering he was mired in a 2-for-32 skid that included a stretch of eight straight strikeouts -- one shy of the major league record for a non-pitcher.
Wright allowed two runs and three hits in six innings. In addition to Perez's second homer since Aug. 30, 2004, the Yankees starter gave up Carl Crawford's infield single in the fourth and a ground single to Sean Burroughs, who scored on Perez's homer.
Fossum took a three-hit shutout into the seventh inning of a 5-2 victory over Boston last Friday and was equally stingy against Yankees until the seventh with help from double-play grounders in the second, fifth and sixth.
The left-hander also escaped a jam in the fourth after hitting Jason Giambi with a pitch and giving up a two-out single to Matsui. Giambi was stranded at third when Bernie Williams hit a dribbler up the third-base line and Fossum threw him out at first.
The Yankees let the Devil Rays starter off the hook in the sixth when Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Fossum wasn't as fortunate in the seventh. Williams singled for the Yankees' third hit and Robinson Cano doubled to finish Fossum. Posada singled off reliever Chad Orvella to trim Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1, and New York tied it on Cairo's RBI grounder to third base.
Fossum allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
- Yankees RF Gary Sheffield missed his third consecutive game with a left wrist injury. Sheffield said he was "encouraged" after undergoing treatment and didn't rule returning in the next couple days.
- The same defensive shift Tampa Bay used a couple of times last weekend against Boston's David Ortiz was employed against Giambi in three of the New York designated hitter's five plate appearances. In addition to positioning third baseman Sean Burroughs in deep left as a fourth outfielder, second baseman Ty Wigginton was stationed in shallow right. Giambi walked on five pitches in his first at-bat and was hit by a pitch his next time up. He struck out the third time.