ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Alex Rodriguez had a 40th birthday bash against his former team in Texas, where the Rangers have little to celebrate these days.
While A-Rod became only the fourth major league player to homer in his 40s after also doing so as a teenager, the Rangers lost for the 11th time their last 12 home games, dropping the series opener against the New York Yankees 6-2 on Monday night.
“I’m not going to sit here and say this is a mental thing. I’ve never seen it before but I don’t believe this is a mental thing and don’t think this is a mental thing,” manager Jeff Banister said. “They’re going to show up in the own ballpark, in their own lockers, in their home uniform in front of their fans and come out here and play. It’s not anything other than that.”
Still, the Rangers had won four of their previous five games — all on the road. Their 16-27 home record is worst in the majors.
Matt Harrison (1-2) allowed six runs in six-plus innings in the lefty’s third start after spinal fusion surgery.
“I feel like I didn’t get loose until about the fifth inning,” he said. “The third inning I made some bad pitches to start that inning off and got some trouble there. After us scoring the two runs I went and gave it back to them, gave the momentum right back to them.”
Josh Hamilton had a two-out single in the second and scored on Elvis Andrus’ double for Texas before a single by Leonys Martin made it 2-0.
Didi Gregorius had a career-high four RBIs and matched his best with three hits. He hit a two-run homer in the third before Brendan Ryan tripled and scored on Chris Young’s sac fly to put the Yankees ahead to stay. Gregorious’ two-run single in the seventh made it 6-2, a batter after Harrison was pulled from the game.
New York led 4-2 after A-Rod’s opposite-field liner into the right-field seats in the sixth.
“It’s amazing, hitting one as a teenager and hitting one here today,” Rodriguez said. “A lot has happened, and I’m just happy to be here.”
Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield are the only other players to homer before turning 20 and then at age 40 or after, according to STATS.
Rodriguez has 24 homers this season and 678 in his career, fourth on the all-time list. The latest came two days after he went deep three times against Minnesota, in his previous game.
It was A-Rod’s big league-best sixth homer on his birthday, STATS said, breaking a tie with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons.
When Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees before spring training in 2004, he was only three All-Star seasons into the $252 million, 10-year contract he signed with Texas after starting his career with Seattle from 1994-2000.
Ivan Nova (3-3) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings. Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances followed with hitless relief.
Martin had two tremendous defensive plays, both involving Mark Teixeira. Martin leaped with his glove near the top of the 8-foot wall to rob a possible homer in the second. Then Martin threw out Teixeira trying to score in the eighth, though Teixeira was upset as his third-base coach for telling him “Easy! Easy!,” an indication that he should be able to score easily.
With their seventh win in eight games, the Yankees have a seven-game lead in the AL East, their largest since leading by 7 1/2 games on July 29, 2012.
Yankees: CF Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the starting lineup with a sore shoulder a day after slamming into the wall making a catch in Minnesota. But he entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth.
Rangers: LHP Derek Holland is set to begin his rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Round Rock. It will be his first game since hurting his shoulder in the home opener April 10.
Yankees: Chris Capuano will make a spot start Tuesday in place of rookie RHP Bryan Mitchell, who was in line to make the start until an accident in the weight room last week.
Rangers: Lefty Martin Perez (0-1, 4.91) makes his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees are one of only two AL opponents the 24-year-old Perez hasn’t faced.