"They're a complete team,'' Joe Girardi said before the Yankees kicked off a three-game series against a team that had shown little weakness in building a 13-3 record.
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Girardi said he was interested in seeing how his team would stack up, and Monday night, the answer was pretty well.
With Derek Jeter picking up four hits in a game for the second time this year and CC Sabathia keeping the Rangers mostly at bay, the Yankees earned a 7-4 win before a sellout crowd of 48,234 at Rangers Ballpark.
"You're playing good teams,'' Girardi said afterward. "And you're going to have to beat these teams if you want to make any noise this year.''
Jeter did that, hitting safely for the 15th time in the first 16 games and raising his average to .411. Alex Rodriguez had a three-run homer that gave Sabathia a 6-1 lead as the Yankees (10-6) won their fourth straight game.
Though Sabathia was mostly exceptional, aside from a two-run seventh, the still-hot Jeter, who turns 38 in June, was the talk of the clubhouse. "He's been locked in,'' said Sabathia (2-0), who allowed four runs, seven hits and a walk in eight innings, striking out eight. "To see what he's doing now is unbelievable.''
Said A-Rod: "I keep kidding him, it's like 1999 again , three hits every day. He's amazing. Even when you see him in batting practice, the ball's just jumping off his bat to all fields. Awesome.''
Said Girardi, "He's playing like he's 25."
Jeter, who faced tough questions pretty much all of 2010, when he hit a career-worst .270, and most of the first half of 2011, when he was even worse, wasn't getting carried away. "It's two weeks,'' he said.
But don't believe for a second that the public doubts expressed during that year-and-a-half have slipped his mind. " streaks as opposed to am I going to hit .250 for the rest of my career?'' he said. "Well, you take the good and the bad. That's the way I look at it.''
Jeter singled on Derek Holland's first pitch and scored on Curtis Granderson's two-out, two-run single in the first. Sabathia promptly gave one back, but it could have been worse. Hits by Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus put runners at the corners with none out, but Josh Hamilton -- who came in hitting .418 with seven homers and 17 RBIs -- hit into a double play. A run scored, but Sabathia called the sequence "huge'' and added, "Just trying to minimize the damage. Glad I was able to get out of it without it becoming a big inning.''
Holland was roughed up in a four-run fifth highlighted by A-Rod's third homer, which broke his 0-for-17 skid against lefties. Chris Stewart and Jeter doubled on consecutive pitches in the sixth for a 7-1 lead. Hamilton's eighth homer in the sixth and Craig Gentry's two-run double in the seventh made it 7-4, but Sabathia needed only five pitches in the eighth and Mariano Rivera took it from there.
"These guys are hot as a pistol,'' Rodriguez said of the Rangers. "[For Sabathia] to give us eight strong innings . . . Sabathia to Mo, that's always a good recipe for winning.''