For one night, talk of Alex Rodriguez's power being a thing of the past proved premature.
The third baseman, in many ways emblematic of the recent struggles of the entire Yankees' lineup, hit two home runs last night in an 8-3 victory over the Royals in front of 40,407 at the Stadium.
"I haven't felt any pressure,'' said Rodriguez, whose first-inning homer snapped a 52 at-bat homerless stretch. "I have a very good understanding of what I have to do at the plate. I've been doing this a long time. We identified some things, we attacked it hard the last three or four days, and I think there's going to be a lot more of that to come.''
The victory was the second in a row for the Yankees (23-21), who had lost six of their last eight games, and sent them to the West Coast feeling far better about themselves. Immediately after the game they departed for a 10-day, nine-game, three-city trip that starts tomorrow night in Oakland.
"It feels good, you got contributions from a lot of guys,'' said Derek Jeter, who had three hits to pull him into a tie with Paul Waner with 3,152 for 15th on the all-time list. "You almost wish you don't have tomorrow off. But we could still use it.''
Of Rodriguez's outburst, Jeter said: "When Al gets hot he hits a lot of home runs. He's done that his entire career. It's early in the season, I'm pretty sure when it's said and done he'll be right where he wants to be.''
Pettitte (2-1, 2.53 ERA), coming off Friday's outing against the Reds when he threw eight shutout innings and struck out nine, was nearly as good last night in the third start of his comeback.
The 39-year-old appeared, at times, to toy with the young Kansas City lineup, allowing seven hits and two runs -- both coming on homers -- in seven innings. He walked one and struck out eight. Three of the seven hits he allowed were infield singles.
"I was glad I was able to give us a solid start,'' Pettitte said, understating things a bit.
He retired nine straight after Mitch Maier's homer in the fifth, the streak broken when he walked Alex Gordon to lead off the eighth. Joe Girardi replaced him with David Phelps and Pettitte left to a loud standing ovation.
"All along I felt like if I stayed healthy that I could get back to where I was when I left,'' Pettitte said. "I'm just thankful right now, I feel like I'm getting real close to that.''
The Royals' best chance came in the third when they had runners at first and third with none out and leadoff man Gordon at the plate.
Gordon fouled off a curveball before going after an 88-mph fastball, hitting a ground smash toward Mark Teixeira. The first baseman, playing in, dove to his right and fielded the ball on one hop. Teixeira jumped to his feet, threw out Maier and retreated to first in time to receive Jeter's throw to complete the double play.
Teixeira and Pettitte simultaneously gave emphatic fist pumps as umpire Wally Bell called out Gordon on the bang-bang play at first.
"That was big,'' Pettitte said of Teixeira's play. "He's as good as I've ever seen over there.''
Overall, it was a night Girardi could feel good about just about everything -- starting pitching, A-Rod, the offense in general -- a rarity the last two weeks.
"You want guys to be able to relax on their off day,'' Girardi said. "We just got done playing 16 games in a row and if you had lost, I think guys are going to be thinking more. I think with a couple wins in a row, they'll put behind them and just relax.''