A-Rod's grand slam ignites Yankees' comeback
ATLANTA -- Yankees bats entered Tuesday night's eighth inning not quite morgue-ready but unquestionably in need of resuscitation.
The pair turned around what appeared to be a sure loss, with Rodriguez cracking a grand slam and Swisher a two-run homer in the eighth to lead the Yankees to a 6-4 victory over the Braves in front of 41,452 at Turner Field.
Rodriguez's slam was his 23rd, tying one of the faces on the franchise's proverbial Mount Rushmore, Lou Gehrig.
"Definitely one that I'll never forget," said A-Rod, who lined Jonny Venters' full-count pitch over the wall in left for his 10th homer, tying it at 4. "I've been a huge admirer of Lou Gehrig and his history and what he stands for and the way he respected the game and represented the pinstripes."
Rodriguez entered hitting .190 with runners in scoring position this season, and in that RISP futility, he hasn't been alone. Before his blast, the Yankees were hitting .220 with RISP, .149 with the bases full.
"I felt like it was a swing for the team," he said. "It felt like everybody needed that hit. And we've all been waiting for it."
With the noise from the sizable contingent of Yankees fans hardly subsided, Robinson Cano singled to left after the slam. That brought Fredi Gonzalez back out to make another pitching change, summoning righty Cory Gearrin to face Swisher. He launched a 1-and-0 pitch to right for his 10th homer and a 6-4 lead.
"It all comes down to timely hitting," Swisher said. "We get guys on, we can put the ball in the seats at any time. I really feel like we're starting to get hot, we really feel like we're playing great baseball right now. On a normal team, when you're getting beat down for seven innings, you might turn it in. But not on this squad."
CC Sabathia (8-3), who left for a pinch hitter in the eighth, picked up the victory, though he wasn't celebrating. As has been the case much of the season, the lefthander struggled early, allowing three first-inning runs and four in seven innings. He also allowed a season-high 10 hits.
Coming into the game, Sabathia had a 6.75 first-inning ERA this season. "It's something I need to figure out," Sabathia said, again targeting fastball command as his biggest issue. "It's frustrating when I feel I have good stuff but can't dominate a game like I want to."
Lefthander Mike Minor, who came in 3-4 with a 6.57 ERA, took a 4-0 lead into the eighth. He was removed with one out after Derek Jeter's second hit, replaced by Venters to face Curtis Granderson, who singled to continue the rally.
Former Brave Rafael Soriano, unavailable the night before because of a blister on his right index finger, earned his 10th save in 11 chances with a scoreless ninth. Girardi presented Soriano with the lineup card to commemorate his 100th save.
But just about everything was overshadowed by the eighth and A-Rod's historic slam. The ball found its way into the hat of 15-year-old Randy Kearns, a Yankees fan from Asheboro, N.C., attending his first game, as were his brother and mother.
He volunteered to give the ball to A-Rod, and in a room adjoining the clubhouse, the transfer took place after the game. Rodriguez exchanged a signed jersey, bats and baseballs.
"A night I won't forget," Rodriguez told the family.