A-Rod passes McGwire on HR list
When the Yankees last won their first four series, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth anchored the middle of the batting order, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri provided the power and Bob Shawkey was on the mound.
That was in 1926 and even without extraordinarily fast starts since then in many years, New York dominated baseball.
Now the Yankees are spurting early once again.
Alex Rodriguez passed Mark McGwire for eighth place with his 584th home run, Derek Jeter also connected and A.J. Burnett pitched seven shutout innings Saturday to lead the surging Yankees over the Texas Rangers 7-3.
For the Yankees, it reminds them of the way they played down the stretch last year en route to their first World Series title since 2000.
“We’ve got the same feel,” said Brett Gardner, who had three of New York’s six infield hits. “It doesn’t matter where we’re at in the game or what the score, we feel like we’ve got the guys to come back and win if we’re down.”
New York didn’t have to worry about rallying, knocking out Scott Feldman (1-1) after 2 1-3 innings and taking a 7-0 lead by the fourth.
After taking two of three against Boston, Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels, the Yankees swept the opening two games of a three-game set against Texas.
Not since the first year Ruth and Gehrig started the season together had the Yankees won their first four series. The only other year they achieved the feat was 1922, when they were still playing at the Polo Grounds.
“I don’t necessarily always remember how you start. You remember how you finish, and that’s the important thing,” Joe Girardi said after his 200th win as Yankees manager. “I’m just happy with the way we’re playing right out of the gate, and obviously the more wins that you have in April, you know, the less that you maybe have to have in a later month.”
Rodriguez hit his first home run of the season in the fourth, a solo drive to right-center against Doug Mathis for a seven-run lead. A-Rod had gone homerless in his first 41 at-bats, his longest homerless streak at the start of a season since beginning 1995 without one in his first 48 at-bats for Seattle.
“They were all ragging on me that I hadn’t checked in yet,” he said.
He didn’t dwell on passing Big Mac.
“It feels good to keep moving up the line,” Rodriguez said. “I think there’ll be a time and a place for reflection, and that will be many years after I’m done playing.”
On a historic anniversary in Yankees history – Mickey Mantle made his debut on April 17, 1951, and Bob Sheppard announced his first game that afternoon – New York improved to 8-3 for its best 11-game start since 2003.
Jeter also had three hits, and Jorge Posada had two hits to reach 1,500, joining Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson as the only players who were primarily catchers to reach the mark for the Yankees.
“I’m excited I’m in the company of them,” Posada said.
Gardner’s speed was a key for hits in the second, third and fifth innings. He nearly beat out another grounder in the eighth.
“The Yankees got themselves another Ichiro,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said, a reference to Seattle speedster Ichiro Suzuki. “We have to make some adjustments in the field to play him.”
Several Yankees mentioned how speed is immune to slumps.
“Chopper off the plate or a line drive up the middle, a hit’s a hit,” Gardner said.
Burnett (2-0) allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked two to win his second straight start. He’s been keeping his arm from speeding up too much with his kick leg, leading to a sharp fastball he relied upon.
“Confidence and conviction – taking every pitch as serious as I can,” he said.
Feldman gave up four runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings – matching the shortest start of his big league career – as Texas lost its third straight. A key for him was when he fielded Gardner’s grounder in the second, and threw wide. Nick Johnson followed with a bases-loaded walk and Mark Teixeira with a bases-loaded infield single for a 2-0 lead.
“If I make that play, then it’s a totally different game,” Feldman said. “If I could have made that play, who knows?”
NOTES: Gardner was the first Yankees player with three infield hits in a game since Don Mattingly against Oakland on Aug. 19, 1992, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Jeter was taken out after seven innings because the Yankees had a big lead and he had a cold. … Teixeira is 4 for 40. … Teagarden went 0 for 2 with two strikeouts and is 0 for 18 with 13 strikeouts this season. … Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer in the eighth off Alfredo Aceves, Cruz’s seventh homer.