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Rollins had forecast the Yankees and Phillies would meet in the Series. Before the 2007 season, he said the Phillies and not the Mets were the team to beat in the NL East.
"That's just Jimmy," Howard said. "Obviously, with those comments, you know here in Yankee Stadium, you know they're going to be all over him. And you know what? He wants that. He relishes that moment."
With Howard and Rodriguez, this will be only the second Series with two former season home runs leaders since 1975's faceoff between Cincinnati's Johnny Bench and Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, according to STATS LLC. The other was in 1989's Earthquake Series, when Oakland's Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire swept San Francisco and Kevin Mitchell.
No player in the major leagues has been scrutinized more than A-Rod, a postseason star following a scandalous spring training that included a steroid admission and hip surgery.
And Howard has carried the defending champion Phillies every bit as much as Rodriguez has propelled the Yankees to their first Series appearance since 2003 -- and the first of his career.
"Ryan, along with his power, he's also become a great hitter," Rodriguez said. "And that's bad news for the National League and bad news for us."
The 34-year-old Rodriguez already has succeeded Reggie Jackson as the favorite Yankees target of wannabe amateur psychologists, who try to analyze past playoff flops and his relationships with Madonna last year and Kate Hudson this season. Now he wants to follow Mr. October as a champion.
A three-time AL MVP, he entered the first round against Minnesota hitting .136 (8 for 59) in the postseason dating to 2004 and was hitless in 18 consecutive playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.
What a change.
He led the Yankees with a .438 average, five homers and 12 RBIs in series victories over the Twins and Los Angeles Angels, hitting tying home runs in the seventh, ninth and 11th innings.
"I think everyone is looking for a profound answer," he said, "and I don't have one."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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