ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Slumping Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada’s return to the lineup helped the New York Yankees end a long slide.
Rodriguez homered twice, Posada had two hits and the Yankees stopped a six-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
“We needed a win,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It is a big win for us. I don’t want to say must-win, but as close as you can get to a must-win in the month of May.”
With Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner in attendance, New York ended its longest skid since dropping seven in a row from April 20-27, 2007.
“I think if we would have lost, we probably would have taken the bus all the way to Baltimore (for Wednesday night’s game),” New York left fielder Brett Gardner joked. “A big win for us. Biggest win of the year.”
Posada doubled and singled while batting seventh as the designated hitter. It was his first start since he pulled himself out of the lineup Saturday soon after he was set to bat ninth.
“To me, it was the place to put him today,” Girardi said before the game. “There’s a lot of things that I look at and I just thought it was the place to put him.”
Girardi would not commit to Posada, who is hitless against left-handed pitching this season, being the everyday DH.
Posada was roundly booed before his first at-bat in the second, when he grounded out. The Yankees fans in attendance cheered in the fifth after he singled.
“It feels good to be back in the lineup and be able to contribute,” Posada said. “To be able to be a big part of a big win. (It’s great) to be able put everything away, behind you and go out there and play ball. It’s one of those things that you’re happy to be back in the lineup and it was a good feeling.”
Rodriguez has 621 career home runs. He recorded his first multihomer game this season and 59th overall.
“They felt great,” Rodriguez said. “It felt good off the bat. One was a changeup and then one was a fastball.”
It was just his second multihit game since April 23 — he had hit .171 (14 for 82) with one homer and six RBIs since then.
“My struggles have been really unacceptable, but hopefully today was the start of good things to come,” Rodriguez said.
Elliot Johnson homered for the AL East-leading Rays (24-18), who are 11-13 at home this season. Ben Zobrist had a run-scoring double in the ninth with two outs that resulted in the Yankees using closer Mariano Rivera to get the final out in a non-save situation.
Rodriguez tied it 1 with a fourth-inning homer and then put the Yankees ahead with a solo shot in the sixth off James Shields (4-2).
“It was one of those games where they were fighting for a win after six straight losses and they came out playing,” Shields said.
Posada doubled and went to third on Gardner’s bunt single in the seventh. Posada was replaced by pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez, who scored on Chris Dickerson’s single during a two-run inning that made it 4-1. Dickerson was called up from Triple-A earlier in the day when setup man Rafael Soriano was put on the disabled list.
The Yankees failed to score in the third with a runner on second and one out when Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson struck out. In the bottom half, Johnson homered on a 3-2 pitch from Ivan Nova (4-3) as the Rays went ahead 1-0.
Gardner and Jeter both had RBI singles in the ninth.
David Robertson replaced Nova with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth and struck out B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman.
“Big-time pitching to be able to do that,” Girardi said.
Nova gave up one run and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. Shields, who entered 4-0 over his previous five starts, allowed four runs and eight hits over seven innings.
Jeter had one hit in five at-bats, striking out three times. The team captain stayed in the game after fouling a ball near his left knee during the fifth.
The game was delayed four minutes in the ninth when the umpires did a video review of a fly ball by Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shoppach that Gardner caught. The original ruling was that the ball hit not strike an overhanging catwalk, which would have resulted in a home run, and that was confirmed.
Gardner briefly lost the ball and then overran it before making the grab.
“I don’t think it hit anything,” he said.
NOTES: New York played without right fielder Nick Swisher, who has flulike symptoms. … Rodriguez has three homers in 32 at-bats against Shields. … New York special adviser and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson will celebrate his 65th birthday on Wednesday. … Rays manager Joe Maddon said both Reid Brignac and Johnson will get playing time at shortstop. … The Yankees have signed LHP Randy Flores to a minor league contract. He will join Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Tampa Bay LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder surgery) threw 1 1-3 innings for Class A Charlotte and is expected to rejoin the Rays on Friday. … Rays RHP Andy Sonnanstine, who’s rotation spot was in question, will start Friday at Florida.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)