05/20/09 1:03 AM ET
A-Rod homers in fourth straight game
Yanks slugger connects for two-run shot vs. O's on Tuesday
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Rodriguez homered for the fourth straight game on Tuesday as the Yankees' winning streak extended to seven games, helping put New York on the board with a two-run tater en route to a 9-1 victory over the Orioles.
"It's just good to contribute," Rodriguez said. "When you're winning games, there's a lot of good stories to be written about everybody. Everyone's playing well, and I'm just happy to be in the mix."
Playing through his first homestand at the $1.5 billion stadium, Rodriguez has found plenty to like about his new digs. Vowing that he would return to the say-less, hit-more approach that carried him to his third American League MVP Award across the street in 2007, Rodriguez has shown more than a few flashes of that form.
"I think I came in with no expectations," Rodriguez said. "I came in to contribute and help the team win, and just be part of a winning team. You try to divorce yourself from anything that has to do with individual things. It's all about the team, all about winning. It's been fun so far."
Still inching back to full strength after March 9 right hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, Rodriguez blasted roundtrippers in the last three games of New York's sweep of the Minnesota Twins, including a walk-off two-run shot in Saturday's 11-inning affair.
He crushed a two-run shot in the bottom of the first inning off Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen on Tuesday to continue the power surge, marking his fifth of the season and the eighth time in his career he has homered in at least four consecutive games, ranking first among active players.
"It's always good to see hard work pay off in life, because a lot of times, you don't always see it right away," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think he's having fun. I think he's really enjoying what he loves to do, and for him, he's been a huge part of this little run that we've been on. That has to make him feel good."
Lacking a full Spring Training after he had a procedure performed by Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo., Rodriguez's road back to the Yankees detoured for five weeks staring at the snowy ski slopes before he was permitted to return to Tampa, Fla., in April, lacing up his spikes and resuming baseball activities.
Rodriguez returned to New York's lineup with a bang on May 8 at Baltimore, belting a home run off Jeremy Guthrie on his first swing of the season, but it has been a tough road for him to regain his timing. That was not completely unexpected for the three-time AL MVP.
"I just came in with the frame of mind of helping this team win in whatever way, and not really worrying about numbers or anything else," Rodriguez said. "I realized it was probably going to take me a little bit of time to get it right. I'm chipping away the best I can."
Five of Rodriguez's seven hits since returning from the disabled list have been home runs, and he is batting just .194 in 36 at-bats despite 10 walks.
"I love the fact that Alex is taking his walks and hitting his home runs," Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. "The average thing -- batting averages have never won games. It's driving in runs and scoring them. That's what he's doing.
"The thing is, Alex goes out there and he works. With that injury, he made sure that he prepared himself. He did everything necessary to get back as soon as possible. Now we're reaping the benefits of it."
Rodriguez's presence in the lineup is almost certainly making an impact on No. 3 hitter Mark Teixeira, who homered for the fourth time in his past four games on Tuesday and now has a team-leading 11 dingers.
Since Rodriguez returned on May 8, Teixeira is hitting .341 (14-for-41) with six homers and 17 RBIs.
"It's incredible what he's doing now," Teixeira said. "People take for granted that he's going to come back and be the normal Alex. He's hitting home runs. He's getting his walks. He's still the best player in baseball."
Most importantly, the surging Yankees are 9-2 with Rodriguez in the lineup after starting the season 13-15 without him.
"We've played so much better since he's been here," Girardi said. "Is he going to get better? I think so, I really do. He doesn't have a ton of at-bats under his belt, and I still think he's somewhat getting into some playing shape. I think he's in great shape, but I think he'll get in better shape."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.