NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez pumped his fist as he approached second base on Sunday, having watched the 659th home run of his career strike the top of the wall and bounce into the Yankees' bullpen.
Rodriguez stands one home run shy of tying Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the home run list, swatting his fifth homer of the season off the Mets' Jon Niese in the first inning of the Yankees' 6-4 Subway Series victory on Sunday. Equaling Mays' total would be meaningful, Rodriguez said.
"I've said it a lot: Willie was my father's favorite player," Rodriguez said. "He's one of my heroes. I'm excited about the win today, I'm excited about the home run. I'm having fun."
Rodriguez's homer came on a 2-2 curveball from Niese, leaving the slugger to provide much of the power for the opposite-field shot. According to MLB Statcast, the ball traveled 378 feet.
Rodriguez's teammates are aware of his place on the home run list, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday that seeing Rodriguez inch closer to Mays is "pretty amazing."
"660 home runs, that's a lot of home runs," Girardi said. "And obviously you hope it comes tomorrow, and you hope there's a couple of guys on when he hits it. That's what you hope for, but he's been a big part of our offense this first month, and we need it to continue."
Because of his age and return from two hip surgeries, as well as a 162-game suspension last season, the Yankees often said that they were not certain what they could expect from Rodriguez this season. Through 18 games, all but two of which have seen him serve as a designated hitter, Rodriguez has made a believer out of Girardi.
"Obviously he's been a great player for a long time, but when you get to that age and what he's been through, you're not sure what you're going to get," Girardi said. "I felt good about what I saw in Spring Training, and expected it to carry over, and it has, but I don't think anybody knew what to expect, just because of what he had been through."
Rodriguez again said on Sunday that he is grateful to be playing in New York, and noted that there seemed to be some added buzz for his final three at-bats of the night.
"I just felt a lot of energy in the building. It was fun," Rodriguez said. "We have the greatest fans in the world, and to feel that energy, it was pretty cool."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.