Yankees 8, Indians 6

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NEW YORK (AP)—Alex Rodriguez kind of chuckled, and declared the best thing about his game-winning homer Thursday was trying to hit Yankees coach Larry Bowa in the head as he rounded third.

Yes, Rodriguez is one happy superstar right now, and the Yankees are winning because of it.

Rodriguez hit a three-run homer that capped a comeback from a four-run deficit with two outs in the ninth inning, giving the New York Yankees an 8-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians that completed a three-game sweep.

By homering for the third straight game, Rodriguez increased his major league-leading totals to 10 homers and 26 RBIs. His latest drive came after he went hitless in his first four at-bats and committed a throwing error that allowed the Indians’ final run to score.

“It’s just fun,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going out and not trying to do too much, and help the team win.”

A-Rod connected on a belt-high pitch from Joe Borowski (0-1) and sent the ball soaring to center. Rodriguez knew immediately it was gone, flipping his bat toward the Yankees’ dugout and raising both hands in triumph.

He slapped the hands of Bowa after rounding third, then slammed his helmet to the ground.

“It’s what Alex is capable of,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He’s got such incredible ability and now he’s letting it speak for itself.”

Sean Henn (1-0) pitched one inning, following Chase Wright and Kei Igawa to become the third Yankees rookie in three games to get his first major league win. That hadn’t happened since Norm Branch, Charlie Stanceu and Steve Peek did it from May 20-22, 1941, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Yankees (8-6), two games over .500 for the first time this season, headed to Boston for their first trip to Fenway Park since they won five straight there in one series in August. Andy Pettitte opposes Boston right-hander Curt Schilling in the opener of the weekend series Friday night.

“We needed this win going to Boston,” Rodriguez said. “Every game in Boston is a war.”

Rodriguez matched Albert Pujols (last year) and Luis Gonzalez (2001) for the second-fastest to 10 homers behind Mike Schmidt (12 games in 1976), according to Elias. A-Rod is 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 in 2002.

“You enjoy it. You appreciate it. I can’t relate to it,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. “You’ll never see me do it. It’s fun to watch. Like I said, it hasn’t been done. No one’s ever done it so everyone should enjoy it because I don’t know if you’ll see it happen again.”

With the Yankees trailing 6-2, Borowski relieved to start the ninth and retired the first two batters. Three times, he came within one strike of sealing a win, but couldn’t get the job done.

“They hit everything,” Borowski said. “They got locked in.”

Josh Phelps started the comeback with his first homer since May 27, 2005, for Tampa Bay against Seattle.

Jorge Posada singled on a 2-2 pitch, Johnny Damon walked with a full count, and Jeter slapped an RBI single to left. Bobby Abreu, down 1-2 in the count, poked an opposite-field run-scoring single to left for his fourth hit.

That brought up A-Rod, who hit a game-ending grand slam against Baltimore with two outs in the ninth for a 10-7 victory on April 7. Borowski started him with a wild pitch in the dirt, and Rodriguez deposited his next offering into the Yankees bullpen, extending his hitting streak to 19 games dating to last season.

Borowski said the Indians decided not to walk Rodriguez with first base open after the wild pitch because Jason Giambi was in the on-deck circle. Giambi had homered for the second consecutive game earlier.

“The at-bat got a little more confusing with the wild pitch,” Rodriguez said. “We really didn’t know what was going to happen but I was in the moment, just wanted to hit a ball hard somewhere.”

Victor Martinez hit a three-run homer, and David Dellucci homered and drove in two runs for the Indians, who were swept in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium for the first time since July 2002. Travis Hafner had three hits and went 8-for-12 in the series.

“It’s a tough loss, obviously,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “You get two outs and the four-run lead and they keep stringing hits together. They are swinging good right now.”

Rodriguez’s hit cost Fausto Carmona what would have been his first victory since he beat Detroit in his major league debut on April 15, 2006. Carmona allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.

Notes

Indians LHP Cliff Lee (strained right abdominal muscle) is scheduled to throw 70 pitches in a rehab outing with Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday. … The Indians stranded 10 runners and have left 48 on in their past six games. … Yankees RHP Humberto Sanchez had elbow ligament replacement surgery Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season.

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