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New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez encouraged by two homers off Tampa Bay Rays

Alex Rodriguez circles the bases after snapping a tie at 1 in the sixth inning with his second solo homer of the game off James Shields.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Alex Rodriguez circles the bases after snapping a tie at 1 in the sixth inning with his second solo homer of the game off James Shields.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Yankees' six-game losing streak, like Alex Rodriguez's two towering home runs Tuesday night, is gone, goodbye.

A-Rod launched a pair of solo homers off Rays starter James Shields to give New York a lead it never relinquished in a 6-2 win over Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez's blasts traveled 432 feet and 417 feet, respectively, at Tropicana Field.

They could carry the Yankees, who crept back to within two games of the AL East-leading Rays, much further than that.

"My struggles have been really unacceptable," Rodriguez said. "But hopefully (Tuesday) was a start to good things to come.

"(The win) was huge. I mean, it was desperation to win the game."

Rodriguez had been suffering a power outage heading into the two-game series with the Rays. Prior to Tuesday, he had one home run in his past 21 games while batting .171 during that stretch. Forget dingers; A-Rod was struggling just to reach base, mired in a 3-for-24 slump and batting .242 with six homers overall when he came to the plate with the Yankees trailing 1-0 with one out in the fourth.

Having struck out three times and gone hitless in four at-bats Monday, Rodriguez worked the count full against Shields, who had retired him on a sharp groundout to third baseman Evan Longoria the first time up.

"I felt good my first at-bat," Rodriguez said. "I fought to 3-2 and hit the ball hard to third base. I thought that set the tone for me.

"(The home runs) felt great. It seemed like my legs were being used nicely. They felt good off the bat. One was a changeup, and one was a fastball."

Rodriguez's second home run, to straightaway centerfield on a 1-and-0 pitch with two outs in the sixth, gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. New York touched Shields for two runs on three hits in the seventh.

"We had some big hits from Alex early on, two home runs, and we seemed to be able to tack on some really good at-bats by some guys," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Shields had pretty good success keeping the ball in the yard against A-Rod, who had one homer and two RBIs in 29 career at-bats against him going in.

"I think I have to be a little bit smarter to him, with two outs especially," Shields said. "The first one, I left a changeup up, and the second one, two outs, I definitely have to make better pitches in that situation."

It had been a tough week for the Yankees and Rodriguez, whose error Sunday night allowed Dustin Pedroia to score the winner for the Red Sox.

"He looked great tonight," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "He drove the ball well. Anytime a guy in the middle of the lineup like that gets going and gets hot, hopefully it's something he continues to do."

Rodriguez's success in Tampa Bay should not have come as a big surprise. His 24 career home runs at Tropicana Field are the third most by a visiting player.

"We've seen him hit two, too many times," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez encouraged by two homers off Tampa Bay Rays 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 11:29pm]
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