06/26/09 1:15 AM ET
Recharged A-Rod carries Yanks
Slugger leads offensive charge against Braves
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Rounding out a series that Rodriguez called his second Opening Day, the slugger continued to snap out of his June swoon, belting a milestone home run and driving in four runs, as the Yankees powered past the Braves on Thursday at Turner Field, 11-7.
"I felt some good signs," Rodriguez said. "It's been a while, but I'm really driving the ball in batting practice. Being able to do that in the game tonight was a good sign."
One night after busting a 1-for-25 skid, Rodriguez equaled an icon with his first swing, belting career home run No. 563 off Braves starter Derek Lowe, tying Reggie Jackson for 11th place on baseball's all-time list. Rodriguez also added a two-run single off Peter Moylan in the seventh.
It was another night of big all-around offense for the Yankees, who were held scoreless for the first 14 innings of the series, only to pound 16 runs from the seventh inning of Wednesday's 8-4 win through the first four frames on Thursday, scoring at least one run in each inning.
Johnny Damon helped lead the charge with three hits and four RBIs, including a three-run triple off Lowe in the third inning. Derek Jeter wrapped the evening 4-for-5 with four runs scored, ending a three-game set that drew general manager Brian Cashman to Dixie and prompted extra hitting meetings.
"It's just getting the confidence back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "These are good players. You are going to struggle from time to time, but you've got to find a way to fight out of it. And they did."
While much of the focus has been on Rodriguez, who remained set as the cleanup hitter despite his struggles -- Thursday marked his first multihit game since May 25 -- Damon said that he and Jeter are taking some responsibility for getting the slumbering offense moving again.
"It makes a huge difference," Damon said. "I don't think Derek and I have been hot together all year. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come, because when we're both on our game, we're going to score tons of runs."
They didn't do badly against Lowe, who -- facing the Yankees for the first time since Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, when he sent the Red Sox on to their first World Series championship in 86 years -- was pounded for eight runs (six earned) on 11 hits in three-plus innings.
"A team like that, you have to give them credit," said Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur. "They're not going to be held hitless for a long time. They broke their bats out and didn't stop. With a team like this, I wouldn't be surprised to see them reel off six or seven in a row if they're swinging like that."
Lowe faced two batters in the fourth inning, and both scored on Cody Ransom's two-run double off reliever Kris Medlen. It was Lowe's third consecutive loss in as many starts, and he may have offered a familiar face for the Yankees, who have had mixed results against relatively unknown hurlers.
"He's had success against us before, so it's not like people were running to the bat racks to go face him," Jeter said. "He knows what he's doing. He's been a great pitcher for a long time, but today, he left some balls up and we took advantage of him. But it's not like it's fun to face him."
That staked Andy Pettitte to an 8-1 lead at the time, but it frittered away as the lefty could not make it out of a five-run fourth inning, surrendering a two-run double to Casey Kotchman and watching a run-scoring Brett Gardner error in center field prolong the frame.
"It's a big league ballgame, and to have an 8-1 lead and go three innings, it's not what you're looking for," Pettitte said. "You've got to get out of the inning. You just figure you can get out of the inning without having the manager come out there to pull you out of the game."
Pettitte recorded the second out by striking out Brian McCann, but Yunel Escobar chased the left-hander with a two-run single off the glove of a diving Mark Teixeira at first base. Pettitte was roughed up for six runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out four.
"He should have been out of that fourth inning probably giving up one run," Girardi said. "It's unfortunate, because we would have liked to see him a little bit longer tonight. He battled and threw good pitches. We just didn't play very good defense behind him."
Alfredo Aceves held the fort with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory, and Phil Coke hurled two scoreless innings before the Braves threatened in the ninth inning, moving the tying run to the on-deck circle against David Robertson.
Grudgingly, Girardi turned the ball over to closer Mariano Rivera, who threw six pitches in getting Diory Hernandez to fly out to center field for career save No. 499.
"It's not how you necessarily want to win a game, but I thought our guys did a nice job," Girardi said.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.