MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—Alex Rodriguez’s struggles at the plate haven’t prevented the New York Yankees from building a comfortable lead in the AL East. Now the All-Star third baseman looks like he might be about to start consistently contributing again.
Coming off his best game in almost a month, Rodriguez looks to again help lead the Yankees to a victory when they open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez went 3-for-4 and hit his 27th home run in New York’s 6-4 win over Detroit on Thursday. He broke out of slumps of 0-for-10 and 1-for-24 with the homer, an RBI single and a double.
Rodriguez also scored two runs and stole a base for the Yankees, who remained eight games ahead of Boston in the AL East.
Rodriguez, last season’s AL MVP, recorded his first three-hit game since Aug. 8.
“I swung the bat much better,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a little of everything. When you swing well, it doesn’t matter what they throw. The focus is not on what I do. The focus is on what the team does.”
The Yankees (79-53) have won three of their last four since a three-game losing streak, and they’re hoping their star third baseman is about to break out at the plate. He’ll be facing the right team to do it, as Rodriguez has batted .333 with 32 homers and 78 RBIs against the Twins in his career.
Minnesota (77-55) is in a tight battle for the wild card, and moved within a half-game of that spot Thursday as it snapped a three-game losing streak and Chicago lost to Tampa Bay. The Twins also pulled within five games of the division-leading Tigers in the AL Central.
Minnesota has managed only seven runs in its last four games.
“We’re struggling right now to score runs, so you’ve just got to make something happen,” Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett said.
Minnesota took a step toward bolstering its struggling lineup Thursday, acquiring first baseman Phil Nevin from the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named. The 35-year-old Nevin is batting .274 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs in 179 at-bats.
Carlos Silva (8-12, 6.50 ERA) will take the mound Friday in the opener of a six-game road trip. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against the Yankees, winning his last start against them on June 5, 2005 with seven innings of two-run ball in a 9-3 home victory.
Silva, however, is 0-3 in his last four starts with a 7.15 ERA, and hasn’t won since Aug. 5. He will be making his first start at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees will counter with Cory Lidle (2-2, 4.15), who will be looking to rebound from a rough outing.
The right-hander lasted only 3 2-3 innings and allowed five earned runs and nine hits in a 12-7 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. He is 1-3 with a 4.37 ERA in seven games—five starts—against Minnesota.
The Yankees got good news Thursday concerning closer Mariano Rivera, as an MRI showed he has only a mild muscle strain at the right elbow but no structural damage.
Rivera came on to get the final three outs Thursday for his 33rd save.
“It’s not pain,” Rivera said. “It’s discomfort. It’s not inflammation. You try to avoid going out back-to-back games but if you can’t, you can’t.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre said this has been a recurring problem for the All-Star in the second half of seasons.
“It’s a matter of being as careful as we can, giving him time to warm up,” Torre said. “It’s a relief to know his elbow is in fine shape.”
Minnesota took two of three from New York at the Metrodome in the teams’ first meeting April 14-16.