ARLINGTON, Texas | Alex Rodriguez had quite a 40th birthday bash.
A-Rod became the fourth player in major league history to homer as a teen and in his 40s, marking his birthday by lining an opposite-field shot to right against his former team to help the New York Yankees beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 Monday night.
“It’s amazing, hitting one as a teenager and hitting one here today,” Rodriguez said. “A lot has happened, and I’m just happy to be here.”
Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield are the only other players to homer before turning 20 and then at age 40 or after, according to STATS.
“It’s remarkable what he’s been able to do, and how good he was at such a young age, and he continues to play well at an older age,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rodriguez has 24 homers this season and 678 in his career, fourth on the all-time list. The latest came two days after he went deep three times against Minnesota in his previous game.
“Very impressive, but you know we’re not surprised by much that he does anymore,” said third baseman Chase Headley, now playing the position A-Rod had in New York before his season-long suspension a year ago for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.
A-Rod’s solo drive in the sixth off Matt Harrison (1-2) was the designated hitter’s big league-best sixth homer on his birthday, STATS said, breaking a tie with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons.
“Yeah, it’s pretty depressing being 40. I’ve had a lot of texts and emails that I’ve joined an exclusive club,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m definitely grateful and happy.”
When he was traded to the Yankees before spring training in 2004, Rodriguez was only three seasons into the $252 million, 10-year contract he signed with Texas after starting his career with Seattle from 1994-2000. He got a $275 million, 10-year deal from New York after the 2007 season.
Didi Gregorius had a career-high four RBIs and matched his best with three hits, including a two-run homer in the third. His two-run single in the seventh made it 6-2.
The AL East-leading Yankees won for the seventh time in eight games, and their seven-game division lead is their largest since leading by 7 1/2 games on July 29, 2012. New York’s 15-5 record in July is the best in the majors.
Ivan Nova (3-3) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances followed with hitless relief.
Harrison gave up six runs and six hits in six innings, his third start since coming back from spinal fusion surgery.
“I feel like I didn’t get loose until about the fifth inning,” he said. “The third inning I made some bad pitches to start that inning off and got some trouble there. After us scoring the two runs I went and gave it back to them, gave the momentum right back.”
BIG EFFORT AT THE BOTTOM
The Yankees went ahead to stay when the Nos. 7-9 batters all had hits to start the third. Headley singled, Gregorius homered and Brendan Ryan tripled before scoring on Chris Young’s sacrifice fly. That came a day after New York’s Nos. 6-9 batters accounted for all the RBIs in a 7-2 win at Minnesota.
As Mark Teixeira rounded third base in the eighth, coach Joe Espada said “Easy! Easy!” — an indication he should be able to score easily. Except CF Leonys Martin’s throw beat Teixeira to the plate and he was out to end the inning. Teixeira glared back toward the coach, clearly upset, and was very animated in the dugout. “That can’t happen,” Teixeira said. “I can get hurt not expecting a plate at the plate. That’s a big run. There’s just a lot of reasons why that can’t happen.” Martin also had a leaping catch near the top of the 8-foot wall to rob Teixeira of a possible homer in the second.
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the starting lineup with a sore shoulder a day after slamming into the wall making a catch in Minnesota. He entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth.
Rangers: LHP Derek Holland is set to begin his rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Round Rock. It will be his first game since hurting his shoulder in the home opener April 10.
Yankees: Chris Capuano will make a spot start Tuesday in place of rookie RHP Bryan Mitchell, who was in line to make the start until an accident in the weight room last week. Mitchell is OK, but hit his head after falling backward while working with exercise bands attached to a door that someone opened.
Rangers: LHP Martin Perez (0-1, 4.91 ERA) makes his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are one of two AL opponents the 24-year-old Perez hasn’t faced.