A-Rod homers, passes Gehrig in record book as Yanks sweep Royals
Alex Rodriguez checked off another age-old milestone in a comeback season that’s surpassing almost anyone’s expectations.
The three-time MVP hit a three-run homer to break Lou Gehrig’s American League record for RBI, and the New York Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 Wednesday to finish a three-game sweep.
”I haven’t played a lot of baseball in the last two years, but I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m happy. I’m having fun,” said the 39-year-old Rodriguez, who sat out last season while serving a drug suspension.
”I think for me in a weird way the time off was a blessing in disguise. I was able to get some rest, change my workout regimen a little bit. I just feel like I’m in a better place and more explosive than I’ve been.”
Michael Pineda (6-2) rebounded from consecutive losses and Brian McCann hit a solo shot for the Yankees, who outscored the American League champions 23-4 in their first home sweep of Kansas City since August 2007.
Coming into the series, New York had lost six in a row and 10 of 11.
”We responded well, especially after getting swept by Texas,” reliever Dellin Betances said.
Mike Moustakas homered early for Kansas City, but Chris Young (4-1) gave up both Yankees long balls. The slumping Royals have dropped four straight for the first time since Aug. 28-31, mustering only five runs during the slide.
”A lot of it was Pineda. Some of it was us right now. We’re not swinging the bats. We’ve cooled off a little bit,” manager Ned Yost said.
Betances allowed an unearned run in the eighth — he has not yielded an earned run all year. Andrew Miller worked a 1-2-3 ninth and is perfect in 14 save opportunities.
”Our pitchers really showed up in this series against an offense that was swinging the bat really well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Brett Gardner doubled to start the third, Chase Headley walked and Rodriguez pulled a line drive into the left-field corner that cleared the fence near the 318-foot sign.
Earlier this season, A-Rod passed Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career home run list. With No. 665 on Wednesday, he ended his season-worst homer drought at eight games and increased his career total to 1,995 RBI. The Yankees said that’s two more than Gehrig gets credit for from the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball’s official statistician.
Records get tricky when it comes to runs batted in, partly because RBI did not become an official stat until 1920. So while baseball-reference.com lists Gehrig with 1,995 RBI and Babe Ruth with 2,214, Elias puts Rodriguez ahead of both of them and behind only Barry Bonds (1,996) and Hank Aaron (2,297).
”You see the guys that he’s passing, and it’s really pretty amazing,” Girardi said. ”It’s longevity, but it’s also being productive for an extremely long time.”
Rodriguez’s 11th homer of the season plus a single in the seventh left him 19 hits shy of 3,000.
”You see it all. You think about it. But right now, it’s about wins,” Rodriguez said. ”We desperately needed these three wins against a great team. That’s a team over there that hopefully we’ll see in October.”
Rodriguez also pointed out he was ”extremely grateful” to hear supportive comments last week from Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner, who said the slugger has been ”a great asset.”
”It certainly made me feel a lot more welcome, and I wouldn’t be here breaking these records if he didn’t give me a chance playing on his team,” Rodriguez said.
Royals: OF Alex Rios (broken left hand) was scheduled to be the DH for nine innings Wednesday night in his third rehab game with Triple-A Omaha, Yost said.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (wrist tendinitis, forearm strain) threw 62 pitches over three innings in his second rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He gave up three runs and four hits, including a homer, while striking out four and walking two against Pawtucket.
Carlos Beltran extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
Chris Mullin, the former St. John’s basketball star recently hired to coach his alma mater, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Wearing a No. 20 pinstriped Yankees jersey and a red St. John’s cap, the lefty fired wide from the mound, but reached the plate on a fly. He said it was his first visit to the new Yankee Stadium. ”Everything I’ve been doing the last few months is kind of like being in a time machine,” he said. Mullin mentioned he played baseball as a kid but hated practicing. ”It was the one sport I progressively got worse at,” he said.
Royals: After a day off Thursday, the Royals play three interleague games against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. RHP Edinson Volquez, who is 7-0 vs. the Cubs, starts the series opener Friday against RHP Jake Arrieta.
Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47 ERA) starts Thursday night at Oakland in the opener of a seven-game West Coast trip. Coming off a dreadful outing vs. Texas, Sabathia is 8-10 with a 4.66 ERA against his hometown team.