Yankees 8, Astros 1

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TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Alex Rodriguez broke out of his slump in a big way.

Rodriguez stopped an 0-for-13 slide with a two-run homer, and the New York Yankees beat the Houston Astros 8-1 Thursday night.

“This spring is a little different,” said Rodriguez, who played for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. “I feel pretty good about myself. I just feel that I’m behind. I feel like I’m playing catch-up.”

Rodriguez hit an opposite-field shot off Carlos Hernandez during a three-run fourth that put New York ahead 4-0. Hideki Matsui added a solo drive later in the inning.

“It’s nice to get your hits, but at the same time, it’s more important to get good at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “Get good tracking and really get yourself prepared for opening day.”

Rodriguez remained in the lineup Thursday after being hit on the left shin by a grounder during batting practice. He finished 2-for-3.

“A nice little bruise,” Rodriguez said. “It should be OK.”

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera worked a perfect sixth. He has given up one run, one hit and struck out 10 in seven innings this spring.

“Everything is good,” he said.

It was the first time this year Rivera pitched in consecutive games.

“Right now he has a good look about him,” manager Joe Torre said.

Yankees starter Scott Proctor, filling in for injured Jaret Wright, allowed two hits over four scoreless innings. The right-hander is bidding for a swing role on the staff.

Proctor retired his first 10 batters before loading the bases on two singles and a walk in the fourth. He worked out of the jam by striking out Mike Lamb and getting an inning-ending flyout from Jason Lane.

Wright, sidelined by back spasms, played catch for the first time since getting hurt last Sunday. He might throw off a bullpen mound in the next few days.

Hernandez gave up four runs and four hits in four innings. It was the second exhibition appearance for the left-hander, who pitched for Venezuela in the WBC.

The Astros got an eighth-inning solo homer from Luke Scott.

Luis Garcia had a three-run homer in the seventh for New York.

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