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Yankees ride Rodriguez's 630th HR to 5-0 over Angels

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees welcomed an old friend, shut down a new foe and followed Alex Rodriguez's lead to a 5-0 win in their home opener Friday.

With recently retired former catcher Jorge Posada throwing out the first pitch and Albert Pujols posing a threat for the Los Angeles Angels in his first season in the American League, Rodriguez took center stage by hitting his 630th career homer and three total hits.

Rodriguez, who tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the all-time home-run list, was joined in the spotlight by starter Hiroki Kuroda, who earned his first victory as a Yankee. Using his slider more effectively and mixing his pitches well, Kuroda pitched eight innings of shutout ball, limiting the Angels to five hits.

Nick Swisher hit a two-out, two-run double for the Yankees in the first and Curtis Granderson added a solo homer in the fifth. It all added up to a victory on an emotion-filled day in which Yankees favorite Posada threw out the first pitch just a few months after announcing his retirement.

"The power of Jorge Posada today," a smiling Swisher said afterwards. "You know, it was such a great day, and to be able to honor all that, it was nice."

Rodriguez, who will bat third in the lineup against right-handers, tied his former Seattle Mariners teammate, Griffey Jr., with his solo shot off losing pitcher Ervin Santana to lead off the third.

"It definitely means I'm getting older," Rodriguez said of the milestone. "Obviously, Griffey is special to me because we came up together."

Before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Rodriguez would bat third in the lineup against righties with Robinson Cano moving to the cleanup spot. While Rodriguez was hitting .174 entering the game, Girardi said the move was designed to break up the left-handed hitters in the Yankees lineup for matchup purposes against left-handed relievers.

Rodriguez and Cano both said the move was not an issue, with Rodriguez joking before the game, "if you think that's a story, wait until I take over (Derek) Jeter's spot in the leadoff spot."

Instead, he helped take the spotlight away from Pujols, who went 1-for-4. Pujols, who said he wasn't "caught up in the history" of Yankee Stadium, has six hits in his first 27 at-bats as an Angel and has not homered in his first seven games.

He said he "smoked" the double-play grounder he hit in the ninth and called it "probably the hardest ball I've hit this year."

"It will happen," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Pujols breaking out. "Obviously, sooner is better than later, but this isn't about Albert. This is about our team doing some things better on the mound and playing a little more fundamentally sound baseball."

Rodriguez enjoyed his first three-hit game since his knee surgery last summer.

Santana struck out the first two batters, but the Yankees still came out of the first inning with a 3-0 lead. That was thanks to Swisher's three-run double, which followed a two-out single by Rodriguez, and walks to Cano and Teixeira.

Kuroda easily made that stand up, scattering five Angels' hits and getting inning-ending double plays in the second and fourth, while striking out six and walking two.

After an infield hit by Bobby Abreu to lead off the ninth, Kuroda exited to a long, loud standing ovation in his debut at Yankee Stadium. The veteran acknowledged he had been "a little bit nervous," but said he settled down and tried to have the same approach he usually would.

"(He was) great," Swisher said of Kuroda, who struggled in his first start as a Yankee. "Could not have been more proud of him. New York people better recognize (him), because he did a great job."

Reliever David Robertson came on to face Pujols, getting him to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. He then retired Kendrys Morales to finish the win.

NOTES: Angels LHP Scott Downs, who was spiked in the right ankle by Minnesota Twins CF Denard Span, is day to day, the Angels said. An MRI revealed no structural damage. ... RHP David Carpenter was called up from Class AAA Salt Lake on Friday, giving the Angels another arm in the bullpen while they wait for Downs to return. He made his major league debut with a scoreless eighth inning. ... 2B Alexi Amarista was demoted to Salt Lake. ... When recently retired former Yankees C Jorge Posada threw out the first pitch, the entire Yankees' starting lineup waited for him behind the mound, while the crowd gave him a long ovation. Posada motioned for them to go to their positions, but instead they waited as he threw out the ceremonial pitch to his father. Posada said he was touched by the moment, and "it wasn't difficult to come back so soon. ... it was difficult to be back, period." Asked if he might decide to return from retirement like ex-teammate Andy Pettitte, Posada smiled and said, "I've got to wait one year."
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