Rodriguez looks to continue his remarkable production Friday night as the Yankees open a three-game series against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The third baseman capped another improbable New York rally with his second walk-off homer of the season Thursday, belting a three-run shot with two outs off Indians closer Joe Borowski for an 8-6 victory that completed a three-game sweep.
Six of the Yankees’ eight wins this season have been comebacks.
“It was special,” said Rodriguez, who also hit a game-ending grand slam April 7 in a 10-7 victory over Baltimore.. “It’s one of those things at The Stadium: It’s never over until it’s over.”
By homering for the third straight game, Rodriguez increased his major league-leading totals to 10 homers and 26 RBIs. He matched Albert Pujols (2006) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) for the second-fastest to 10 home runs behind Mike Schmidt (12 games in 1976). He is also the first player with two game-ending homers this early in the season since Philadelphia’s Pat Burrell had two in the first nine games of 2002.
“We needed this win going to Boston,” Rodriguez said. “Every game in Boston is a war.”
The homer extended Rodriguez’s hitting streak to 19 games dating to last season.
The win put the Yankees (8-6) two games above .500 for the first time this season heading into an early-season showdown at Boston, where they have won seven straight.
While it may be far too early to look at the standings, any game between the Yankees and Red Sox (9-5) is important because the teams almost always go late into the season challenging each other for a playoff spot. New York has won the AL East each of the last nine seasons, with Boston finishing second seven times during that span.
After losing four of the first five meetings with the Red Sox in 2006, the Yankees won nine of the next 10, including a pivotal five-game sweep at Fenway from Aug. 18-21 that essentially ended the AL East race.
Andy Pettitte (1-0, 0.69 ERA) will oppose the Red Sox in a Yankee uniform for the first time since Game 6 of the 2003 ALCS. The Yankees signed the left-hander to a $16 million, one-year deal with an option with the hope he could return to the form he displayed from 1995-2003, when he went 149-78 with a 3.94 ERA in 283 regular-season games for New York.
“I’m just looking forward to it again,” Pettitte said of the rivalry. “I guess I’ll find out if it’s any different from the time I was here before. I can’t believe that it is, from what we went through with them whenever I was here.”
Pettitte has been outstanding in his first two starts of 2007. He worked six scoreless innings in a 10-1 win at Minnesota on April 10, before allowing one earned run and six hits over seven innings Saturday at Oakland. He is 13-5 with a 3.08 ERA in 21 career starts versus Boston, including 5-2 with a 3.17 ERA in nine starts at Fenway Park.
Pettitte will have to be careful with Boston sluggers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Ramirez is batting .424 (25-for-59) with three homers and 18 RBIs against him, while Ortiz is hitting .409 (9-for-22) off Pettitte.
The Red Sox rallied for a 5-3 victory Thursday at Toronto, their fifth win in six games.
Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to tie the game, and Alex Cora had a go-ahead triple in the ninth for Boston, which took two of three games from the Blue Jays.
“This is how you get to the playoffs, by winning series,” Red Sox starter Julian Tavarez said. “This is how you get to October.”
Curt Schilling (2-1, 2.84) makes his fourth start of the season for Boston. The 40-year-old right-hander has pitched very well in his last two starts after struggling in his season debut. He scattered four hits over eight innings Saturday in an 8-0 win over the Angels, stretching his shutout streak to 14 consecutive innings.
Schilling is 7-5 with a 4.39 ERA in 14 career regular-season starts against the Yankees. He has won four of his last five decisions against them.