On Tuesday night, after another mediocre game at the plate, Alex Rodriguez insisted he was ready to go on a tear.
He knew what he was talking about.
A-Rod gave Will Smith a rude welcome to the major leagues Wednesday night, hitting two homers off the rookie to back another strong start for Andy Pettitte and lead the New York Yankees over the Kansas City Royals 8-3.
”I said it with conviction not because it was going to sound good here in my locker but because I felt it,” Rodriguez said. ”It’s good to back that up.”
Rodriguez snapped a 52 at-bat homerless drought and drove in three runs for New York. Curtis Granderson also connected off Smith and the Yankees scored three times in the fifth with help from some inept relief pitching.
Derek Jeter had three hits to tie Paul Waner for 15th with 3,152. Before Jeter singled in the eighth, Waner had been the only player who reached a bigger hits milestone than Jeter in a Yankees uniform. ”Big Poison” got just one hit with New York, his final one in a career spent mostly in Pittsburgh.
New York scored as many as three runs in the first inning for the first time in 31 games since April 19 and finished a 3-3 homestand. The Yankees start a 10-game trip at Oakland on Friday following their first consecutive wins since taking three in a row from May 10-12.
Pettitte (2-1) followed eight innings of four-hit ball against Cincinnati with seven-plus crafty innings in his third start since coming out of retirement. He gave Smith a lesson in mixing pitches and working out of difficult situations.
”I feel like I’m moving the ball around the zone and that makes it difficult to hit,” Pettitte said.
In the third inning, first baseman Mark Teixeira started a double play with a diving stop. Pettitte got out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth with a strikeout — one of his eight Ks — giving a slight fist pump walking off the mound.
”He’s as good as I’ve ever seen over there,” Pettitte said about Teixeira.
Pettitte gave up seven hits, including homers to Billy Butler and Mitch Maier. The 39-year-old left-hander has not lost to Kansas City since 1999. In 24 games against the Royals, he is 14-3.
”I faced him before he retired and now after he came back, and I actually see things different that he’s doing,” Butler said. ”He’s throwing more off-speed stuff, more curveballs and changeups. Before it was 90 to 94 with hard cut in on you. You knew he was throwing it and he knew you knew he was throwing it, and it was going to beat you. But he’s crafted his game and his last two starts have been great.”
Smith (0-1), a 22-year old called up from Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday, started off with an out for the scrapbook: He got Jeter to hit a grounder to shortstop. But it was rocky the rest of the first for the lefty who was two months shy of 6 when Pettitte made his debut in 1995.
”I was nervous a little bit, facing a future Hall of Famer to start your career, in Derek Jeter,” Smith said. ”That was cool at the same time, but you still got to go out there and make your pitches and get people out.”
Granderson homered to deep right on a 1-2 pitch. TV showed Smith’s mom in the stands shaking her head: welcome to the big leagues, son. After a walk to Teixeira, A-Rod crushed a ball into the left field stands for a 3-0 lead.
By the time Nick Swisher hit a pop up with two outs, Smith’s mom couldn’t watch: she had covered her face with her hands. It was an out, mom.
When Rodriguez homered in the third to center field, mom sat stunned with her hands behind her head.
”She was nervous. She’s been like that since I was in high school,” Smith said. ”She and my dad … my dad used to pace around the stadium. They always get nervous and always will be.”
Rodriguez had just one RBI since he last homered and drove in three runs on May 6 at Kansas City, 15 games ago. It was Rodriguez’s 60th multihomer game.
Smith was lifted after giving up a one-out single in the fourth. He yielded five runs and six hits in 3 1/3 innings. Luis Mendoza, the pitcher originally slated to start Wednesday night, relieved.
Rodriguez came up in the fifth with the bases loaded and grounded into a fielder’s choice. Jeter, who bunted for a hit, was forced out at home.
The Yankees came in 8 for 41 (.195) with the bases loaded but they didn’t need a hit in that situation in the fifth to score their runs. The Yankees walked three times and were twice hit by pitches in the inning. Robinson Cano had an RBI fielder’s choice — a nice diving stop by shortstop Alcides Escobar — and Andruw Jones and Teixeira, back in the 3-hole after two games batting seventh, walked to force in runs.
”It’s a club that a lot of times works the count really well and is going to have its share of walks,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Eric Hosmer went 3 for 4 with an RBI to raise his average to .191 for the Royals.
NOTES: The Royals dropped to 4-3 in the deciding game of series this season. … New York went 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position, leaving the Yankees 9 for 85 (.106) in their last nine games.