ATLANTA - The loud and relentless booing didn't get going until the seventh inning.

In other words, Alex Rodriguez didn't make a plate appearance until the seventh inning.

Rodriguez, who hadn't taken a swing in a game since Wednesday (he was intentionally walked in his lone plate appearance Saturday night), entered Sunday's game against the Braves as a pinch hitter for pitcher Chasen Shreve with the bases loaded and one out. The Yankees had a three-run lead at the time.

DataA-Rod's career home runs

The Braves made a pitching change.

That meant more boos, more suspense, more A-Rod.

Then he delivered.

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Rodriguez grounded a two-run single up the middle to help break open what became a 20-6 win for the Yankees. After Rodriguez's hit, the Yankees sent nine more batters to the plate and added seven more runs in the inning.

Oh, what four days off in late August can do for a 40-year-old designated hitter who sat out all of last season.

Said Rodriguez: "The four days off have been great."

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It certainly appeared they were needed. Before the hit, Rodriguez was 11-for-80 (.138) in the month of August.

Having Rodriguez produce at the plate is critical for the Yankees (72-57), who trail the AL East-leading Blue Jays (74-56) by 11/2 games. He has 26 home runs and 71 RBIs with a slash line of .257/.363/.489.

"I'm sure it makes him feel a lot better," Joe Girardi said. "Knowing August has been tough, he gets a big hit for us and he also gets some rest. Hopefully, it really helps."

With the Yankees resuming American League play Monday night with a three-game series in Boston, Girardi said he expects Rodriguez to start.

Where?

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Though four straight days off for Rodriguez may be a thing of the past for now, days at first base may be a thing of the future.

With Mark Teixeira's return to the lineup up in the air because of a bone bruise and the Yankees about to face two lefthanded starters in Boston, Girardi said Rodriguez could be an option at first base.

"I might toy around with the idea a little bit if Tex is not ready," Girardi said before the game.

Rodriguez has started only three games in the field this season -- one at first base and two at third -- and none since April 27. His lone start at first base, the first of his career, came April 11 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez took grounders at first base Saturday, Girardi said. Still, there's plenty of apprehension that comes with the idea of Rodriguez seeing action in the field, considering he hasn't done so in four months.

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"That's a concern of mine," Girardi said. "That's why I tried to prepare him for it yesterday. I'll think about it.''