Rodriguez's record 24th grand slam lifts Yankees
NEW YORK -- On the recently completed disappointing road trip, Alex Rodriguez's legs had been bothering him to the point where was constantly hitting pop-ups into outs.
On Friday, Rodriguez's legs appeared to be feeling better and he hit a ball into the air.
The difference was that the ball cleared the fence and it proved to be the biggest home run of the season for the New York Yankees.
Rodriguez hit a tiebreaking grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting the Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
It was Rodriguez's seventh home run since last month's return from a second hip surgery and his 24th grand slam, breaking a tie with Yankee Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig for the most all-time.
Bothered by nagging injuries to hamstrings and calves while the Yankees lost six of 10 on a three-city road trip, Rodriguez entered the game with one hit in 22 at-bats. He extended it to 1-for-25 by flying out to center field, grounding out to shortstop and striking out against San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum. (10-14).
It was the second at-bat that the Yankees saw Rodriguez run better than he had recently, which might have allowed for enough power to send one over the fence. Two pitches after missing a fastball from reliever George Kontos, Rodriguez sent a 92 mph fastball into the front rows of the right-center field seats.
"I came out the last three or four days in Toronto and ran a little bit and some more today," Rodriguez said. "I think my legs are getting better. I've been missing balls, hitting a lot of fly balls and I thought my legs were a little better today.
"I was just looking for a ball right down the middle and put a good swing on it. I didn't want to miss the ball. I've been putting a lot of good swings and just popping them straight up. It's been very frustrating."
A-Rod's grand home run gave the Yankees (81-73) their sixth win in their last 15 games, which could move them within 2 1/2 games of the wild-card spot pending the outcomes of Tampa Bay-Baltimore and Texas-Kansas City.
"We really needed it," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "As I've said, I don't know if we can afford to lose any more. That's the bottom line. I kind of look at every game from here on out, as extremely, extremely important and we needed it."
The home run came on a night when the Yankees did little against Lincecum except gradually drive up his pitch count. Lincecum gave up Alfonso Soriano's home run in the second and the Yankees did not put anything together until the seventh when Eduardo Nunez singled up the middle and Lincecum loaded the bases loaded the bases by walking Ichiro Suzuki.
That ended his night at 121 pitches, his second-highest total of the season and left him a spectator. As the home run headed towards the stands, Lincecum watched dejectedly before television cameras caught him muttering an expletive as headed towards the clubhouse.
"Just the last inning bit me in the (butt)," Lincecum said. "I didn't attack the zone well, just tough to watch and tough to put somebody in that kind of situation."
"He was great until the seventh, had some bad luck," San Francisco manager Bochy said.
Rodriguez's 654th home run and first in nine days allowed CC Sabathia to avoid falling under .500 on a night when he had better fastball movement down in the strike zone. Sabathia exited to a standing ovation from the crowd after allowing one run and seven hits in seven-plus innings during an 107-pitch outing.
"It's awesome," Sabathia said. "It felt good to see him do that in a big moment."
David Robertson relieved Sabathia after pinch hitter Tony Abreu led off the eighth with a base hit. Robertson got Juan Perez to hit into a double play and struck out Buster Posey looking at an inside fastball.
Mariano Rivera finished it off by throwing just eight pitches in a hitless ninth during a non-save situation.
Lincecum allowed four runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings and had a personal four-game winning streak halted.
NOTES: The Yankees held a pregame ceremony to celebrate Ichiro's 4,000th hit, which occurred last month against the Toronto Blue Jays. Ichiro donated his jersey from the game to the Baseball Hall of Fame. ... According to a report on CBSSports.com, the Giants will make qualifying offers to Lincecum and OF Hunter Pence, who both are free agents. That will allow the Giants to receive first-round picks as compensation if both sign elsewhere. ... San Francisco C Hector Sanchez took a foul ball off the left side of his mask but stayed in after the trainer briefly checked on him.