A-Rod an early catalyst as Yanks edge Rays

A-Rod an early catalyst as Yanks edge Rays

NEW YORK -- Starlin Castro drove in four of the Yankees' six runs in Friday night's 6-3 win over the Rays at Yankee Stadium, but it was New York's first run of the night that fans will remember best.

Before what's widely expected to be the last game of his 22-year career, Alex Rodriguez had time to reflect on what made him a three-time American League MVP and a 14-time All-Star. Rodriguez didn't disappoint when he stepped to the plate in the first inning, lining a double into right-center field at a velocity Statcast™ estimated at 103 mph to plate Brett Gardner from first base and knot the score at 1.

"It was great," Rodriguez said of the double. "I haven't played a lot of baseball lately, and Chris Archer's not a guy that I'm racing to go face. I saw him before the game, and I told him to take it easy on the old man. I gave him a hug, and he smiled. He's a great competitor. I was just glad to drive the ball, especially to right-center, where I've made my living."

• A-Rod looks up to you, New York, New York!

Rodriguez was nearly moved to tears by rousing cheers from the crowd in the ninth inning, when he took the field for one last time, playing third base for the first out of the frame. He then left the game to an ovation and hugs from teammates. Rodriguez finished the night 1-for-4 with two groundouts and a strikeout.

A-Rod takes the field

"First of all, I'm very grateful that Joe gave me the opportunity to play third for one out," Rodriguez said of manager Joe Girardi. "I was actually excited. I haven't touched my third base glove in a long time, but oddly enough, I feel more comfortable there than at first base. It was great. It was fun to throw across the diamond to [first baseman Mark Teixeira]. We have some great memories. I'll cherish that forever."

Girardi gets emotional

Rodriguez wasn't the only Yankees player who flashed a little bit of the talent that led the team to a World Series title in 2009. CC Sabathia started for the Yankees and allowed three runs on four hits, striking out seven in six innings en route to his seventh win of the season. Teixeira, who plans to retire at season's end, singled twice, scored twice and even stole a base.

A-Rod exits to standing ovation

For the Rays, Evan Longoria opened the scoring with a first-inning solo home run, his 26th of the season. The third baseman followed that up with an RBI single in the third inning and finished his day 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and a run scored. Chris Archer's disappointing season continued, as the right-hander saw his ERA jump to 4.39 after allowing five runs on seven hits in six innings.

Longoria's solo home run

"Arch, it just seemed like he came up with some chances to make some pitches and just couldn't quite get the ball where he needed to get it," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Satisfying the prophecy: In a pregame news conference, Rodriguez mentioned that he believes the Yankees can do some "special things" if Castro gets going. Castro must've been listening, as the second baseman drove in four runs on two hits, both of which gave the Yankees a lead.

Castro's two-run single

The latter was a 408-foot home run to center field that Statcast™ estimated at 102.7 mph off the bat. The homer was Castro's 13th of the season, putting him one shy of tying his career high.

Castro's go-ahead home run

"He had a big night," Girardi said of Castro. "The four RBIs that he had, obviously, to put us up, 5-3, was huge. Starlin had really good at-bats, and these guys have been grinding. An outstanding night. Those RBIs are really important. They're not just important to us winning a game and hopefully getting closer somewhere, but they're also important to being able to do what I wanted to do in the end."

How it's done: The Rays have struggled to execute in offensive situations all season, which made their rally in the fifth inning stand out. Tim Beckham doubled off Sabathia to lead off the inning and moved to third on Bobby Wilson's sacrifice bunt. Logan Forsythe then delivered a sacrifice fly to drive home Beckham and tie the score at 3.

"It's something we've been talking about, and as far as getting a runner on second with no outs, sac bunt that guy over," Beckham said. "It turned out well. Bobby laid down a good bunt and Logan put together a good at-bat after a couple calls didn't go his way. He did a good job of getting the ball in the air."

Sturtze on the horizon: Despite having struck out 177 batters on the season, Archer came away with his 16th loss. Tanyon Sturtze owns the club record for most losses in a season with 18 in 2002, a season that saw the Devil Rays lose 106 games.

Archer fans McCann

CC climbs past Cone, Mussina: With his strikeout of Brad Miller to end the third inning, Sabathia passed former Yankees right-hander and 1994 AL Cy Young Award winner David Cone for 22nd place on the all-time strikeouts list with 2,669. Three innings and three strikeouts later, Sabathia eclipsed another former Yankees righty, Mike Mussina, for sixth on the franchise's career strikeouts list with 1,279. The next pitcher for Sabathia to pass on the all-time K's list is Frank Tanana, one of the four left-handed pitchers with more career strikeouts than Sabathia.

Sabathia's quality start

QUOTABLE
"It was certainly biblical," Rodriguez said of the thunder during his pregame ceremony. "You could hear the thunder crackle. At one point, I said, 'Hal, we've got to take it in.' He said, 'Let's go.' You can't make that up. I guess we went out with a bang." -- Rodriguez, on his exchange with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner before the game

• Even the sky was clapping for A-Rod at his farewell ceremony

"I was just hoping that the wind would blow in or Mikie [Mahtook] would go over the wall and make a great catch. But it's a bummer, because that was the difference in the game tonight." -- Archer, on Castro's home run.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Longoria's home run gave him 15 in his career at the new Yankee Stadium. That tied him with David Ortiz for second most at the park by a visiting player. Jose Bautista, who has 17, holds the top spot on the list.

UNDER REVIEW
Mahtook hit into what was originally ruled an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play in the sixth inning, but the Rays challenged. After a 59-second review, the call was overturned.

Dickerson out after review

Another call was overturned in the top of the ninth, when Corey Dickerson, originally ruled safe at first base on a throw to first from catcher Brian McCann after Dickerson had struck out, was officially called out.

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: Matt Andriese (6-3, 2.90 ERA) will make his 11th start of the season on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. In his third start since returning to the rotation from the bullpen, Andriese should be stretched out enough to throw at least 100 pitches. He has a 5.79 ERA in three career appearances against the Yankees.

Yankees: The Yankees will celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the team's 1996 World Series champions prior to Saturday's game. The start will go to Masahiro Tanaka (8-4, 3.32 ERA), who's coming off back-to-back starts without issuing a walk.

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Nick Suss is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York and covered the Yankees on Friday.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.