NEW YORK - A sign near the entrance to Foley’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan reads “April Rod for MVP.” Alex Rodriguez tied a major league record with 14 home runs in April. June Rod might be making a run.
Rodriguez hit a two-run home run off the façade above the second level of seats in left field to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning of the New York Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday, then grounded an RBI single between third base and shortstop in a four-run fourth inning to give him 21 RBIs in June and increase his AL lead to 66.
“I didn’t see it land, but I knew it was a good swing,” Rodriguez said of the home run.
Rodriguez tied a major league mark with 18 RBIs in the first 10 days of June, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, while the Yankees have taken off. They have won eight straight.
“Everyone knows their offense is very good,” D-Backs manager Bob Melvin said.
“That’s what happens when a team is on a roll. The balls they hit hard find the seats, and the balls they don’t find a hole.”
Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui also homered off Livan Hernandez, who had 11 quality starts in his previous 13 this season but allowed a season-high 14 base runners in his four innings.
Matsui’s three-run homer in the fourth gave pitcher Mike Mussina a 7-1 lead and provided him with ample room to dabble with first-pitch curveballs … and full-count curves.
Mussina, who entered the game with two victories and a 5.63 ERA, never threw a fastball that was clocked at more than 88 mph on the stadium radar gun but mixed his pitches well while benefiting from what appeared to be a veteran’s strike zone.
He got his first victory in six starts, since beating Texas on May 9.
“He’s a pitcher, and he was on tonight,” Chad Tracy said. “It’s all about keeping us off-balance, and that’s what he did. His fastball was in, out, up and down. He did his job.”
The D-Backs put only three runners in scoring position against Mussina, who pitched into the eighth inning, his longest outing of the season, before leaving in favor of former D-Back Brian Bruney, who hit 98 mph and 97 mph on consecutive fastballs in the ninth.
Mussina had a season-high seven strikeouts while walking none. He reached a three-ball count on only two hitters while throwing a season-high 101 pitches.
“He was throwing everything for strikes,” said catcher Wil Nieves, who has become Mussina’s personal catcher, “and he kept the ball in the corners.
“This team is a little bit aggressive. He took advantage of that.”
After winning 11 of 12 games, the Diamondbacks have lost five of their last six while losing interleague series to Boston and the Yankees.
The D-Backs (37-29) have 18 runs in their last six games and 28 in their last 10, falling out of first place in the NL West.
They are 0-for-10 hitting with runners in scoring position in this series, 5-for-42 in the last six games.
Posada’s homer leading off the Yankees’ second inning tied the game after Mark Reynolds doubled and later scored on Chris Young’s sacrifice fly in the top of the inning.
The D-Backs’ only other run came on Conor Jackson’s fifth homer in the sixth.
Rodriguez hit an 82 mph slider for his league-high 25th home run in the third. He singled in Bobby Abreu, who singled and stole second with two outs in the fourth, before Hernandez walked Posada and gave up Matsui’s three-run home run.
Hernandez (5-4) had given up only six home runs in his previous 86 innings.
“I missed a lot of pitches, and they paid me back,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t give us the chance to win. Seven runs in four innings … it’s ridiculous. It was a bad day. Everyone has a bad day. I felt very good, but everything I threw, they hit.”