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A-Rod's 2 HRs help Yanks get needed win

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows his sixth-inning

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows his sixth-inning home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher James Shields during a baseball game. (May 17, 2011) Credit: AP

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- How badly did the Yankees need a victory Tuesday night?

Bad enough that phrases and words not often used during May baseball were heard in the manager's office and in the clubhouse after the Yankees snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

"It's just like we needed to win this game," Joe Girardi said. "This was, I don't want to say must win, but as close as you can get to a must win in the month of May."

A solid Ivan Nova outing, aided by a huge pickup from reliever David Robertson, and Alex Rodriguez breaking out of a nearly monthlong slump with two solo home runs made the victory possible in front of a crowd of 27,123, which included managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who watched from the family suite his father so often sat in.

"Desperation," Rodriguez said of the pregame feeling. "We definitely needed a win. We haven't been playing well and it's not acceptable."

Rodriguez, who hit both home runs off Rays starter James Shields, had described his own recent play the same way. A-Rod and hitting coach Kevin Long have talked for two weeks about getting more push from his legs and Tuesday night, it finally showed.

"That's what we're looking for," Long said. "He's been searching for that a good while now. Hopefully, this is what pushes [his slump] behind us."

Robertson, whom teammates refer to as "Houdini," gave Nova a good final line (one run, four hits in 51/3 innings) by getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth, the score at that point only 2-1. Robertson struck out B.J. Upton swinging at a 94-mph fastball and Casey Kotchman looking at a 96-mph heater.

"Big-time pitching," Girardi said.

Robertson punctuated the Kotchman strikeout with a double-fist pump, a rare show of emotion by the normally low-key righthander.

"I knew coming in it was a big situation and I can't let anyone score because we needed a win bad," Robertson said.

Of the fist pump, he said, "I was a little excited out there tonight."

Robertson turned over a dicey situation, two on and two outs, to Joba Chamberlain in the seventh. Chamberlain, pitching a third straight game, fell behind Johnny Damon 2-and-0 but got him to ground to first. Chamberlain pitched 11/3 scoreless innings. Amaury Sanit gave up an RBI double with two outs in the ninth and Mariano Rivera came on in a non-save situation to face Damon, who grounded out.

The Yankees had turned a 4-1 lead into a 6-1 advantage in the ninth, getting run-scoring singles from Brett Gardner, who had three hits, and Derek Jeter, who broke an 0-for-14 skid.

Though he didn't drive in or score a run, Jorge Posada, returning to the lineup for the first time since sparking a three-day firestorm by asking out of Saturday's game, was part of the story by going 2-for-3, hitting seventh. He doubled in a two-run seventh and pinch runner Eduardo Nuñez scored on Chris Dickerson's single to make it 3-1.

"It feels good to be back in the lineup and to be able to contribute and be part of a big win," Posada said. "It's [good] to be able to put everything behind us."

Especially a losing streak that featured some of the worst baseball of the Joe Girardi era. Robinson Cano did commit an error in the third that gave the Yankees 15 in their last 12 games but everyone, for the first time in a while, was able to talk about something other than sloppy play afterward.

"We've been needing to get a win it seems now for weeks," Gardner said. "If we had lost, I think we would have had to take the bus all the way to Baltimore."

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