NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez hit his 661st career homer to pass Willie Mays for sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list, receiving a curtain call from the Yankee Stadium crowd and helping the Yankees defeat the Orioles, 4-3, on Thursday evening.
Rodriguez broke his tie with Mays (660) by slugging a line-drive solo shot in the third inning off Baltimore starter Chris Tillman, which landed just to the left of Monument Park in center field. It marked Rodriguez's seventh home run since returning from a suspension that cost him the entire 2014 season.
"It's been quite a journey here the last few years," Rodriguez said. "I promised myself that I would come out and enjoy every moment. The way the fans have allowed me to come back and play baseball, the way I repay them is by working hard, playing hard and trying to help our team win."
Mark Teixeira drove in two runs, including a fifth-inning RBI double off Tillman that marked the go-ahead hit. Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi served up solo homers to Jimmy Paredes and Caleb Joseph but completed 5 2/3 innings for his third victory, and Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 12th save in as many opportunities.
"You knew it was just a matter of time, and it couldn't have come at a bigger moment," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said of A-Rod's homer. "That's what him and Tex do -- they come up with big hits and big situations and drive guys in. It's a lot of fun to be a part of."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Say Hey, Alex passes Mays: After narrowly missing an opposite-field homer in the first inning, A-Rod connected with an 83-mph Tillman changeup in the third inning for career homer No. 661, passing Mays for sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list. The Yankees acknowledged the achievement with a brief message on the center-field scoreboard, and the crowd summoned Rodriguez for a curtain call, which he acknowledged with a two-handed salute. As tracked by Statcast™, Rodriguez's homer had an exit velocity of 108 mph and traveled 441 feet, with a launch angle of 23 degrees. More >
"Nobody will ever pass Willie Mays," Rodriguez said. "I've talked about him being my father's favorite player. There's only one Willie Mays; not only what he did on the field, but what he meant off the field. He's a legend. He's also a role model for all of us."
Not Tilly time: Despite several fantastic defensive plays behind him, including Delmon Young's home run-robbing grab of Rodriguez's first-inning sacrifice fly, Tillman couldn't deliver. The righty, who gave up two runs in the first, allowed four runs on 10 hits and lasted 5 2/3 innings. The O's Opening Day starter, Tillman has a 6.25 ERA. Rodriguez is 6-for-12 lifetime vs. Tillman, with four homers.
"After we scored runs, we gave runs right back, and that's where you'd like to get some shutdown innings," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And Chris will. He's getting there. He had five days off again. I think once we get into a pattern and get him every fifth day, it's going to help. You don't see him miss -- he's been wild in the strike zone and that's been a challenge for him." More >
No napping vs. Nate: Eovaldi had to battle without his best stuff, lacking command of his breaking ball, but he helped himself in the fifth inning with a quick pickoff throw to first base to nab Paredes off the bag. Instead of runners at the corners with one out, Eovaldi worked to Adam Jones with a runner at third base and two outs, inducing Jones to hit an inning-ending ground ball to shortstop.
"That was huge for me. We had one out at the time," Eovaldi said. "To be able to get that second out, that opened up first base to where I could expand the zone if I need to and try to get him to chase something."
Caleb crushing: The O's catcher led the offense on Thursday, going deep for his third homer of the season in the third inning and doubling in Travis Snider in the fifth. Joseph is hitting .296.
"We take pride in our defense. We have a good defensive team. We work on it. It's just who we are. That's our makeup." --Steve Pearce, who has impressed in less than a week at second base
"All of this is pretty crazy. A year ago today, I never thought that I would ever get a curtain call or be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the New York Yankees, helping our team win." -- A-Rod
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Teixeira's quirky start to the season continued on Thursday, as 16 of his 21 hits have now gone for extra bases (six doubles, 10 homers). He tried to add to that statistic, but Teixeira was thrown out stretching a single into a double in the first inning on a ball that drove home Brett Gardner with the Yanks' second run. Teixeira added a run-scoring double in the fifth that gave the Yanks a one-run lead.
Prior to the game, the Orioles activated shortstop J.J. Hardy from the disabled list and placed Everth Cabrera (left foot contusion) on the DL to create a roster spot. Infielder Ryan Flaherty is expected to be activated prior to Friday's game. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: The Orioles will send Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59 ERA) to the mound for Friday's 7:05 p.m. ET game against the Yankees. Gonzalez won after allowing four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Rays on Saturday.
Yankees:Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78 ERA) will make his sixth start of the season on Friday as the Yankees play the second game of a four-game series with the Birds. This will mark Warren's first career start against the O's. He is 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA (11 innings, 10 earned runs) in 10 career relief appearances vs. Baltimore.