Yankees manager Joe Girardi called it the balance of baseball.

You can find it in the ups and downs of the game, he said. It's in winning streaks and losing streaks, slumps and hot starts.

It explains how a guy like Michael Pineda, who struggled so mightily in his last two starts, can come in and pitch a 62/3-inning gem, as he did in yesterday's 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

It explains how the Yankees, who have struggled just as much in the last few weeks, can come in and sweep what is arguably the best team in the American League.

It can even explain someone as inexplicable as Alex Rodriguez, who continued his ascension from baseball anathema to local folk hero: His three-run homer in the third allowed him to surpass Lou Gehrig as the American League's all-time RBI leader.

"Baseball is a strange game," Girardi said. "Over the long run, things balance out . . . A lot of things can go right, a lot of things can go wrong. You're never as good as you're playing great and you're never as bad as the way that we've played sometimes."

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With the score tied at 1 in the third, Rodriguez teed off on Chris Young's 0-and-1 slider, sending it 352 feet to left and earning him his 1,995th RBI, surpassing Gehrig by two. He is one short of Barry Bonds, but far behind Hank Aaron, who holds the major-league record at 2,297. It was his 665th homer and his two hits left him 19 short of 3,000.

Though there are conflicting numbers for RBI totals (it did not become an official stat until 1920, so RBIs recorded before that time are not counted), MLB rankings are determined by the Elias Sports Bureau, and the AL crown is undoubtedly another stanza in the A-Rod redemption odyssey. His 11 homers are second to Mark Teixeira (14) on the Yankees. He also has a second-best 26 RBIs.

"It's definitely an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Lou Gehrig," he said. "It's been a long time and I haven't played a lot of baseball in the last two years. I feel like I'm in a good place. I'm happy, I'm having fun . . . In a weird way, the time off was a blessing in disguise. I was able to get some rest."

Meanwhile, Pineda shook off an uneven first inning (and his two previous starts). After starting the season with a 5-0 record, he had lost his last two decisions, having allowed a combined 12 runs (nine earned). It looked as if it would be more of the same in the first, which featured two hard-hit balls (both gloved on strong plays by third baseman Chase Headley) and Mike Moustakas' solo home run.

He soon settled down. Brian McCann tied the score on a home run in the second, and A-Rod provided the extra breathing room in the third. His homer came after Brett Gardner doubled and Headley walked.

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Pineda (6-2, 3.36 ERA) pitched 62/3 innings, allowing six hits, the one earned run, with a walk and eight strikeouts. Yankees starters allowed only one earned run apiece in each game of this sweep.

"When I have my slider, it's always tough for a hitter," Pineda said. "It's nice. I feel very happy tonight."

Girardi spoke about the importance of the turnaround.

"We did not play well against Texas," he said. "We did not pitch well, and our pitchers really showed up in this series."

In short, it all balanced out.