Rodriguez looks to lead the Yankees to a series sweep of the Minnesota Twins when the teams wrap up their three-game set at the Metrodome.
The third baseman has hit at least 35 homers and driven in 106 runs or more in each of his three seasons in New York, where he won the AL MVP award in 2005. However, many of his teammates have reportedly failed to warm up to him and he has been booed mercilessly by fans at Yankee Stadium.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez homered in his fourth straight game in Tuesday’s 10-1 victory and leads the majors with six home runs and 15 RBIs. He is just the ninth major leaguer, and first Yankee, to hit six homers in the first seven games of a season.
Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt, who homered seven times in the first seven games of 1976, is the only player to hit more.
Rodriguez was even laughing and joking playfully with several teammates after Tuesday’s game.
“Alex has been swinging the bat as well as I’ve ever seen him,” captain Derek Jeter said. “I asked him if there was anything wrong with him when he flew out.”
Johnny Damon added a three-run homer Tuesday in his second game back in the lineup after missing four starts with mild right calf strain, and starter Andy Pettitte, who spent the last three seasons with his hometown Houston Astros, earned his first victory as a Yankee since 2003.
Jason Kubel singled in the lone run for the Twins, who have scored just six runs in their last four games after plating 17 in a season-opening three game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. Starter Boof Bonser was roughed up for seven runs in 4 1-3 innings, one night after Sidney Ponson gave up eight runs in 5 2-3 innings.
Ramon Ortiz (1-0, 2.57 ERA) will look to give the Twins a better outing in the series finale. The right-hander had an impressive season debut Wednesday, when he allowed two runs in seven innings of a 7-2 win over Baltimore.
Ortiz is trying for a bounce-back season, after going 25-34 over the last three years with the Angels, Reds and Nationals.
“I feel great. I feel very good. When you have a great pitching coach like Andy (Rick Anderson), he worked me hard in spring training,” Ortiz said. “Look at me now. I’m different now.”
Before the win, Ortiz, who signed a one-year deal with the Twins as a free agent in the offseason, had been 0-3 with a 7.90 ERA in five starts at the Metrodome. He is 3-1 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 career appearances, including nine starts, against the Yankees.
New York will counter with Mike Mussina (0-1, 13.50), who allowed six runs in four innings of Friday’s 6-4 loss to the Orioles. Mussina, a stickler for staying on routine, was pitching for the first time in a week because of a rainout two days earlier.
“It’s just disappointing when it’s the first game of the season,” he told MLB.com. “You want to come out better than that. You want to come out and feel like you’ve got some idea what you’re doing out there, or at least look like you have some idea. I didn’t feel like I did or look like I did.”
Mussina is 20-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 28 career starts against the Twins, but has gone 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last four outings against them.
The 38-year-old right-hander is 10-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 15 starts at the Metrodome.