KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Alex Rodriguez reached 50 home runs for the first time in five seasons, and promptly added to his total.
A-Rod homered in consecutive at-bats against rookie Brian Bannister to set a single-season record for a third baseman, helping the New York Yankees overpower the Kansas City Royals 11-5 on Saturday night.
Rodriguez just missed homering in three straight at-bats, flying out to the center field wall in the sixth, and was hit by a pitch from rookie Luke Hochevar in the seventh before coming out for a pinch runner.
He became the first Yankees player to reach 50 homers in a season since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle did it in 1961. A-Rod joined Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as the only players in history to hit 50 homers in three different seasons.
Andy Pettitte (13-8) pitched into the seventh and Johnny Damon and Wilson Betemit also homered for New York, which has won four in a row and is a major league-best 37-19 since the All-Star break. The Yankees have dominated the Royals, going 8-1 this year and 18-3 since 2005.
The Yankees, who remained three games ahead of Detroit in the wild-card race, are a season-best 18 games above .500 and moved within 5 1/2 games of AL East-leading Boston.
Emil Brown had a two-run double and Billy Butler doubled twice for the Royals, who have lost four straight. The first three had been one-run decisions, including a 3-2 setback to the Yankees in the opener of the three-game series on Friday.
Bannister (12-8) surrendered three homers after giving up only one in his previous eight starts. The right-hander, who had won four straight starts and had been 7-1 in his previous nine outings, allowed a season-high seven runs in five-plus innings.
The AL Rookie of the Month in August, Bannister dropped from among the league leaders after his ERA spiked from 3.16 to 3.46.
Rodriguez leads the majors by a wide margin in homers and RBIs (138), and his 49 homers as the third baseman broke the previous major league record by Mike Schmidt of the Phillies (1980) and Seattle’s Adrian Beltre, who hit 48 with the Dodgers in 2004.
Rodriguez, who has hit two homers as a DH, added to his team record for homers for a right-handed batter and surpassed the 50-homer plateau for the first time since hitting 57 with Texas in 2002. He hit 52 with the Rangers in 2001.
Bannister was victimized on 3-1 counts in the fourth and sixth innings. A-Rod’s first homer was a towering two-run shot to straightaway center, a drive estimated at 416 feet, and the second a liner over the left-field fence to lead off the inning.
Rodriguez, who homered twice in an inning on Wednesday, narrowly missed matching that feat later in the Yankees’ seven-run sixth when he flied out to the center-field wall. He has eight homers in the last 10 games, and has eight multihomer games this season and 52 in his career.
The 514th and 515th homers of Rodriguez’s career came one day after he passed Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 17th on the career list, connecting off Gil Meche. Next up are Willie McCovey and Ted Williams with 521 home runs.
Pettitte allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings with four strikeouts and one walk, topping 2,500 career innings in the process, with the only damage coming on Brown’s two-run double in the fourth. Pettitte has won seven of his last eight starts overall and is 6-0 in his last eight games against the Royals.
His 162 wins with the Yankees are tied with Herb Pennock for seventh on the franchise list.
Damon, who had been in a 2-for-28 slump, hit a two-run homer in the third for the first runs of the game. Betemit, who got a spot start, was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the sixth.
Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, worked the last three innings in his major league debut, allowing no runs and three hits with a walk and a hit batter. Hochevar was 1-3 with a 5.22 ERA at Triple-A Omaha and 3-6 with a 4.69 ERA at Double-A Wichita this year.
Yankees SS Derek Jeter was removed due to right knee stiffness in the bottom of the fifth. … Rodriguez has five homers this year against the Royals. His 52nd homer will tie Mickey Mantle for third-best on the franchise single-season list. … Bannister gave up three homers for the second time this season, and first since July 16 at Boston. … Yankees 1B Doug Mientkiewicz tumbled into a photographer’s well in an unsuccessful attempt to catch Jason LaRue’s foul popup in the eighth. … Mike Sweeney had three hits for the Royals. … Pettitte is 9-2 in 12 starts since the All-Star break and 11-3 with a 3.15 ERA for his career against the Royals.