A-Rod Powers Yankees Past Rangers

5-8-07 - The pitching has improved, the bottom of the lineup is breaking out of its funk, and Alex Rodriguez is driving the ball to the opposite field again.

The New York Yankees are beginning to resemble the powerhouse they were supposed to be.

Rodriguez hit his first homer in 15 days, Andy Pettitte pitched seven sharp innings and the Yankees beat Texas 8-2 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight victory over the Rangers.

Derek Jeter drove in two runs and Doug Mientkiewicz started a pair of rallies from the No. 9 spot to help New York improve to 6-2 since owner George Steinbrenner called his $195 million team's 9-14 start "clearly not acceptable."

"I think we're starting to feel like we're starting to right this thing a little bit and straighten this thing out," Pettitte said. "We're going to be all right."

Four of those wins have come against the Rangers, including a three-game sweep in Texas last week.

"We can beat the Yankees," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "What have we played them, four games? We haven't beaten them yet, but it ain't over with yet, either."

No. 8 hitter Robinson Cano ended a 1-for-21 slump with two doubles and New York scored a pair of runs on a two-out error by center fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. in the third.

Pitching for the first time since buddy Roger Clemens announced he'll return to the Yankees this season, Pettitte (2-1) worked around some shaky infield defense in the first two innings. He allowed one run and seven hits for his first win in five starts since April 10 at Minnesota.

"He takes young kids to school," Washington said. "He keeps boring in with that cutter. He may not be the Pettitte he was when he left New York for Houston, but he's got a lot of intelligence."

The only concern for the Yankees was designated hitter Jason Giambi, lifted in the sixth because of a spur near his left heel that's been bothering him for a while. He wasn't sure if he would play Wednesday night.

"It's manageable and everything's fine," Giambi said. "I'd like to have some days off, but we can't afford it."

Hank Blalock doubled three times and walked for the Rangers, who were coming off a three-game sweep of Toronto.

After getting hit by a pitch from starter Mike Wood (0-1) in the third, Rodriguez drove an 0-1 delivery over the right-center fence in the fifth for his 15th home run of the season.

"That's where he was going all last month," manager Joe Torre said. "That was big. He hadn't hit one in a while."

The two-run shot, which gave the Yankees a 6-1 lead, was Rodriguez's first homer in 47 at-bats since April 23 at Tampa Bay. It also was New York's first homer in four games.

A-Rod has slowed down after a torrid start, but he still leads the major leagues in home runs and RBIs (39) by a comfortable margin.

"I've been about six inches off, just reaching a little bit," he said. "Tonight I let the ball travel a little bit."

Sammy Sosa's two-out RBI single in the third put Texas in front. Sosa tried to score from first on Blalock's second double, but he was thrown out at the plate on a strong relay from right fielder Bobby Abreu to second baseman Cano to catcher Jorge Posada.

Mientkiewicz, who doubled twice Monday and is now batting .230, singled leading off the bottom half and scored on Jeter's one-out double. With two runners on, Hideki Matsui hit a liner to center that got Hairston twisted around, and the ball glanced off his glove for a three-base error that made it 3-1 Yankees.

"I got a good jump on it," Hairston said. "At the last second it tailed back a little bit, but I should catch that ball and I didn't. It's that simple."

Mientkiewicz singled again with two outs in the fourth and scored on Jeter's single. Johnny Damon, who was on second base, was cut down at the plate on the play by left fielder Nelson Cruz.

Cano added an RBI double off reliever Ron Mahay in the four-run fifth and Mientkiewicz's sacrifice fly made it 8-1.

"Now I know at least what it feels like to do it right. Now I have something to go back to," Mientkiewicz said. "It's nice to contribute because these guys have been so positive with me from everybody on down."

Mientkiewicz also made a pair of fine plays at first base in the top of the fifth.

"Those are the little things I guess I need to do to stay in the big leagues," he said.

Both of Wood's starts this season have come against the Yankees. He pitched effectively into the seventh inning last Thursday.