A-Rod, Jeter power Yankees win

July 12, 2008 6:18:48 PM PDT
On the day Alex Rodriguez passed Mickey Mantle on the major league home run list, the New York Yankees were left mourning Bobby Murcer - the former star who replaced Mantle in the lineup long ago. Rodriguez's 537th homer moved him into 13th place, and Derek Jeter hit No. 200 of his career to help the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4 on Saturday.

After the game, the Yankees learned of Murcer's death due to complications from brain cancer, and players spoke fondly of a man who spent nearly four decades with the team as a player, executive and beloved broadcaster.

"It's just a reminder for all of us who are in the game, the media, and a fan of baseball just how trivial the game can be for one day," Rodriguez said. "When you look at a guy like Bobby, it makes time stop a little bit."

Murcer, who was 62, joined the Yankees in 1965 as an infielder but was soon was playing in center field, Mantle's old spot. He also took over Mantle's locker.

Rodriguez was struck by the links between Mantle and Murcer, including the fact that both were from Oklahoma.

"There's really no random events," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, Jeter and Brett Gardner each had three RBIs as the Yankees rebounded after being blanked 5-0 Friday night by Roy Halladay's two-hitter. New York is 5-1 following a shutout, outscoring opponents 36-16 in those games.

Rodriguez passed Mantle with a leadoff homer in the fourth, driving a 3-2 pitch from left-hander Brian Tallet off the left-field foul pole for his 19th of the season.

It was Rodriguez's 192nd home run with the Yankees, tying Tino Martinez for 15th place on the franchise list.

The three-time AL MVP has 47 career home runs against Toronto, his second-highest total against any opponent. He has hit 58 homers against the Los Angeles Angels.

Rodriguez has already passed Ted Williams (521), Willie McCovey (521) and Jimmie Foxx (534) on the career home run chart this season. Mike Schmidt (548) is next.

"These are special names," Rodriguez said. "You've got to take a step back and enjoy the moment."

A-Rod's milestone shot came three innings after Jeter led off the game with a drive to right, his fifth of the year. It was the 18th time Jeter has led off a game with a home run.

"I guess it's a lot for someone who doesn't hit home runs," Jeter said. "It's nice. You play the game long enough, you hit certain milestones. It's not something I ever thought I would do."

New York right-hander Darrell Rasner gave up four runs in the first but shut out the Blue Jays over the next four innings to win for just the second time in nine outings. He snapped a three-start losing streak.

Rasner (5-7) allowed three earned runs and seven hits. He walked one and matched a season high with six strikeouts.

"Everything felt good," Rasner said. "The fastball was down in the zone, where I needed it to be, and everything else worked off of that."

Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras and Kyle Farnsworth each worked a hitless inning before LaTroy Hawkins wrapped it up with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Toronto's Jesse Litsch (8-6) gave up eight runs - three earned - and seven hits in 2 2-3 innings. The right-hander, who began the season 7-1, has won just once in his past eight outings.

"I put full blame on myself," Litsch said. "The team got a three-run lead after the first inning and I gave it back and pretty much put a dagger back in us."

Trailing 1-0 on Jeter's home run, Toronto put Rasner in an early hole by sending eight batters to the plate in the first. Marco Scutaro hit an RBI single and Adam Lind had a three-run triple.

New York jumped back in front in the second, loading the bases with a walk, a single and a hit batter. Gardner hit a run-scoring single and Jeter drove in a run when Scutaro bobbled a potential double-play grounder to second. One out later, Rodriguez hit a two-run single.

The Yankees chased Litsch with a three-run third. Robinson Cano reached on an error by shortstop John McDonald, Melky Cabrera singled and both runners advanced on a grounder before Gardner hit a two-run single and scored on Jeter's single.

The crowd of 44,363 was Toronto's biggest since opening day, surpassing Friday's crowd of 43,078.

Notes: Toronto's six-game home winning streak ended. ... Rodriguez tied Mantle on Sunday with a solo homer in New York's 5-4, 10-inning victory over Boston. ... DH-LF Hideki Matsui (left knee) took 55 swings at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. Also working out in Tampa were RHP Phil Hughes (broken rib), who threw 25 pitches, and free-agent RHP Victor Zambrano. OF Johnny Damon (left shoulder) is scheduled to hit off a tee on Monday.