04/11/07 1:00 AM ET
A-Rod stays hot as Pettitte, Yanks win
Third baseman's sixth home run sets early tone for left-hander
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Rodriguez became the first player in Yankees history to homer six times in the first seven games of a season, extending his Major League home run lead in the first inning with a two-run shot to left off Minnesota's Boof Bonser.
"He's unbelievable right now," Pettitte said. "He's locked in and focused. He's not giving any at-bats away. It's awesome to see."
Rodriguez has now homered in four consecutive games, and his six home runs and 15 RBIs pace the Major Leagues.
With Rodriguez a constant threat to clear the outfield fences, even the Yankees have grown a little homer-happy. Manager Joe Torre said that the bench anticipated that Rodriguez's second-inning flyout was also headed into the blue seats as a souvenir.
"You don't want to miss any of his at-bats," catcher Jorge Posada said.
Rodriguez said that all of his homers this season have felt good. Yet he appears to be keeping an even keel.
"You just worry about every at-bat, one at a time," Rodriguez said. "[You] keep seeing the ball well and don't try to do too much."
Johnny Damon added a three-run homer off Bonser in the fifth inning, his first of the season. Melky Cabrera -- who opened the season in a 2-for-28 funk before stroking three hits on Tuesday -- had a run-scoring single in support of Pettitte, as did Jason Giambi.
After New York's starting pitchers did not turn in a quality start in the first five efforts of the season, Pettitte gave the Yankees their second in as many nights, following up on Carl Pavano's seven-inning effort on Monday over Minnesota.
Picking up his first victory as a Yankee since Sept. 26, 2003, at Baltimore's Camden Yards, Pettitte limited Minnesota to just four hits.
"All is well tonight," Pettitte said. "That's the way you want to draw it up, for sure."
Pettitte walked one and struck out three in what was his 150th career victory as a Yankee, an occasion that Torre marked by offering the left-hander the contest's lineup card.
"At this stage in my career, every win is precious," Pettitte said. "You appreciate all of them."
After he lasted just four-plus innings in his previous start, a loss to the Orioles on April 5 at Yankee Stadium, Pettitte reported that his communication with Posada had improved. Of the 18 outs Pettitte recorded on Tuesday, just two came via fly balls.
"He wasn't himself his first start," Posada agreed. "Today was more like it."
While effective, Pettitte hasn't completely stepped out of a 2003 time machine just yet -- not that he will anyway, with a repertoire that varies from the closing days of his first go-round in a Yankees uniform.
In this effort, Pettitte said the start was slightly unusual because he has continued to battle at less-than-optimal strength following missed time in Spring Training due to a bout with back spasms.
Though he threw 96 pitches and ventured six innings, Pettitte said that he had decided -- with the large lead -- to simply challenge the Twins to put the ball in play in the later innings, abandoning his usual style of pitching to the corners.
"I got a little tired there, but you continue to pitch," Pettitte said. "That's good, that you can not feel strong and still get through it. That's obviously a good sign."
Derek Jeter scored three times and stole the 250th base of his career in the victory over Bonser, who lasted 4 1/3 innings and surrendered seven runs (six earned) on six hits, walking two -- one intentionally -- and striking out one.
Minnesota reached Yankees reliever Scott Proctor for a run in the seventh inning, as Justin Morneau walked and scored on Jason Kubel's pinch-hit single. Kevin Thompson stroked a two-run double and Bobby Abreu had an RBI single, as Dennys Reyes allowed three runs in the ninth.
With his home run -- part of a 1-for-3 evening that featured two walks (one intentional) -- Rodriguez became just the fourth player in the last 50 years to have an extra-base hit in each of his team's first seven games of the season, joining Ken Griffey Jr. (1997), Phil Nevin (2001) and Larry Walker (2001).
Aside from Rodriguez, seven other players have homered six times in the first seven games of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The only player to homer more frequently than Rodriguez in the first seven games of a season was Mike Schmidt, who hit seven home runs to open the 1976 campaign for the Philadelphia Phillies.
"I love Mike," Rodriguez said. "Mike's one of my favorite players of all time. It's always an honor."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.