Power, patience and pitching lead Yanks

Power, patience and pitching lead Yanks

Power, patience and pitching lead Yanks
NEW YORK -- With two swings of the bat in Wednesday night's rubber match with the Royals, Alex Rodriguez snapped a prolonged powerless streak and helped the Yankees to their biggest scoring output in nine games.

Rodriguez homered twice, going deep for the first time since May 6, and the Yankees' bats broke out for eight hits in a series-clinching 8-3 win at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez put a 52-at-bat homerless stretch to bed, fueling New York to its largest run total since May 14, when it also scored eight runs. The Yankees averaged 2.25 runs per game over their previous eight contests, six of them losses.

"When you hit in the middle of the order, your team expects you to come up with big hits," Rodriguez said. "I was tired of making the news from taking third base on a fly ball or stealing a base. That's a big part of the game and I take a lot of pride in it, but I understand what my bread and butter is -- and that's to make big noise with my bat."

Not to be outdone by the offensive outburst, left-hander Andy Pettitte turned in another strong performance on the mound, scattering seven hits and two runs -- both on homers -- over seven-plus innings while striking out eight.

Now three starts into his return from retirement, Pettitte has a 2.53 ERA and has worked into or beyond the seventh inning each time out.

"I felt like I was expected to do well," Pettitte said of his return. "I did. I know there was a lot of talk about my Minor League starts, but those are Minor League starts. Down there, you're just throwing the ball. You're not really trying to attack hitters. ... But all along, I felt like if I stayed healthy, I could get back to where I was when I left. And I'm just thankful right now I feel like I'm getting real close to that."

Rodriguez went yard in the first -- the second homer of the inning, two batters after Curtis Granderson hit a solo shot -- to give New York a 3-0 lead off Kansas City's Will Smith.

After Derek Jeter doubled to lead off the third and came around to score on a Mark Teixeira double-play ball, Rodriguez upped New York's lead to 5-0 with another blast to center.

"I felt I was getting good pitches to hit and I wasn't in a position to hit those pitches," Rodriguez said of his recent struggles. "The last two to three days, I've taken a lot of swings, and today, I put myself in a position to take my 'A' swing."

Meanwhile, Smith's Major League debut was a forgettable one. The left-hander lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and five earned runs on three homers.

"It wasn't [the dream start I envisioned], but just the fact to be able to be out there in the big leagues, it doesn't get any better than that," Smith said. "That was the dream part; the outcome wasn't."

The Kansas City relievers who succeeded Smith did not fare much better. The Yankees scored three more runs in the fifth with bases-loaded walks issued to Teixeira and Andruw Jones, and a grounder from Robinson Cano. Rodriguez did bat with the bases loaded and no outs but grounded to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who threw home for the forceout.

Kansas City pitchers walked seven hitters on the night and hit two batters.

"That's what our club does," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's a club that a lot of times works the count really well and is going to have its share of walks. We had a young kid out there, his first Major League start, and I think our guys put some pressure on him early, and they were patient and they got their pitches. It's good to see the walks in those situations."

The Royals' first two runs came on home runs -- hit by Billy Butler in the fourth and Mitch Maier in the fifth -- before Eric Hosmer blooped a ninth-inning double down the left-field line to drive in the final run.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter went 3-for-5, including his 3,152nd hit, which tied him for 15th on baseball's all-time list with Hall of Famer Paul Waner.

The victory -- New York's first back-to-back wins since it reeled off three straight from May 11-13 -- wraps up a stretch of 16 games in as many days and sends the Bronx Bombers off to the West Coast for a nine-game road trip on a high note.

"We just got done playing 16 games in a row, and ... if you don't win a series, I think you start thinking more about at-bats and pitches," Girardi said. "With a couple of wins in a row, you can put that behind you and just relax."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.