Power surge ignites Yankees
Teammates pick up slumping A-Rod with five more blasts
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's home run pursuit may be stalled at 499, but the rest of his teammates have had little trouble pumping balls out of the park.
One night after the Yankees tied a franchise record with eight home runs, Jorge Posada homered twice and led a five-homer New York charge, blasting through an 8-1 rout of the White Sox.
"Guys are picking me up," said Rodriguez, who is hitless in 21 at-bats since his last homer. "They're swinging the bats incredibly well, and you kind of just want to join the parade a little bit. The most important thing here is to win."
That, the Yankees are doing, securing their third consecutive victory and backing Andy Pettitte, who fired seven innings of one-run ball to log his seventh win. Since the All-Star break, the Yankees are a Major League-best 15-6, and they have ample run support to thank.
"It's good," said Pettitte, who walked two and struck out six. "We're swinging the bats well and it's great to see we came home and got this homestand off to a great start. You don't expect the balls to be flying out of the ballpark the way they are; obviously the guys are feeling extremely comfortable at the plate."
Posada turned in his first multi-homer game of the season, reaching White Sox left-hander John Danks for a two-run shot in the second inning and tacking on a second blast off right-hander Charlie Haeger in the eighth inning. Posada's second home run immediately preceded the ejection of Haeger, who plunked Robinson Cano with a soft offering on his next pitch.
Joining Cano and Derek Jeter, who also homered, rookie Shelley Duncan only further cemented his cult hero status with another home run, his fourth in his last three games at Yankee Stadium. Duncan connected for his fifth Major League home run off Danks in the fourth inning, rocketing a two-run shot over the wall in left-center.
With five home runs in five career games in the Bronx, Duncan has conjured comparisons to Shane Spencer's power surge from 1998, with one notable exception -- Spencer's Major League display came in September, after the Yankees had the division well-secured. Duncan's homers are helping the Yankees pursue postseason play.
"I'm seriously just trying to have good at-bats," Duncan said. "I know I'm capable of hitting home runs just by concentrating on putting together good at-bats. I'm just worried about seeing the ball and making solid contact. I'm just trying to keep things really simple."
With Jason Giambi gaining steam in his rehab from a left foot injury and scheduled to appear at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday, Duncan's days in New York could be numbered, through no fault of his own. With Giambi's eventual expected return, both Duncan and Johnny Damon could experience a crunch for at-bats.
"You're darned right it's going to be difficult," manger Joe Torre said. "I hope, really, that nothing happens to make your decision easy. That means everybody's healthy and everybody's raring to go. I'm going to have to call on the players to understand that only so many guys can be on the field at one time."
The hearty run support was a welcome development for Pettitte, who had been backed sparsely in the early portions of the season but has seen improved cushioning of late.
Pettitte allowed a Chicago run in the second inning when Scott Podsednik tripled home Jermaine Dye, but otherwise he was able to keep the White Sox off the board -- even laboring through a fifth inning in which he stranded the bases loaded by getting A.J. Pierzynski to pop out to shallow left field.
"Today was a perfect example of what he's capable of doing," Posada said. "It seemed like he tried to do too much early and he really settled down. He got the ball down and got a lot of pitches down. He's a battler."
Struggling in his attempt to become the youngest player to reach the 500-home run mark, Rodriguez was again turned away. Forgetting about the pending milestone and simply focusing on having quality at-bats may be proving more difficult than expected for Rodriguez, who leads the Majors with 35 home runs and 103 RBIs.
"He's going to hit a home run eventually, whether it's tomorrow or two months from now," Jeter said. "It doesn't make a difference. Our job is to win games. We'd like him to hit the home run and get it out of the way, but more importantly we're here to win games."
Each of Rodriguez's at-bats is preceded by a disruptive procedure in which the umpires must exchange their cache of baseballs for specially-marked ones bearing Rodriguez's first initial and a digit, and Rodriguez acknowledges that he can see the oceans of flashbulbs that accompany each pitch thrown to him, no matter the game situation.
With another Yankees victory in the books, Rodriguez opted to publicly keep his humor about the situation. He learned that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had also decided to jibe at the continuing chase, subtly tweaking a sellout crowd of 53,342 on hand in the hopes of witnessing history.
"He threw over to first on purpose a couple of times so the fans could get a nice flashbulb of that," Rodriguez said. "It was confusing why he was throwing over; I knew Bobby [Abreu] wasn't going anywhere. But I knew it was Ozzie behind it, I found out a couple of innings later."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.