A-Rod sets tone early with sixth homer of season

Yankees 10, Twins 1

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As a horde of reporters gathered around Alex
Rodriguez, Mike Mussina barked playfully at the star third baseman
from the peanut gallery.

"C'mon! Six homers in seven games? He's supposed to do that,"
Mussina said. "Just ask you guys."

Teammate Derek Jeter also teased A-Rod during the New York
Yankees' 10-1 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night.

It might have taken more than three years, but there are signs
that Rodriguez is finally fitting in with the Yankees.

Rodriguez homered in his fourth straight game to back a solid
performance by Andy Pettitte, then laughed and joked playfully with
several teammates after the game.

"Alex has been swinging the bat as well as I've ever seen
him," Jeter said. "I asked him if there was anything wrong with
him when he flew out."

Rodriguez, who struggled to ingratiate himself in the Yankees'
clubhouse and with their demanding fans during his first three
seasons in New York, hit his major league-leading sixth homer in
the first inning.

Johnny Damon added a three-run shot off Boof Bonser (0-1) in a
four-run fifth, and Pettitte (1-0) gave up four hits in six shutout
innings for his 150th victory with the Yankees, and his first since

The Twins have scored a total of six runs in their last four
games, though two of those were played in frigid conditions during
a weekend series at the Chicago White Sox.

Rodriguez has been making hitting look easy this season.

"He just looks very comfortable," manager Joe Torre said
before the game. "He's not up there overplaying his hand. He's up
there daring people to get him out."

In the first inning, A-Rod reached down low in the zone and
effortlessly lofted a 3-2 changeup into the left-field stands to
give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

"I'm seeing the ball pretty well," he said. "Hopefully,
things continue."

Rodriguez became the ninth major leaguer, and first Yankee, to
hit six homers in his first seven games of the season.
Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt, who hit seven homers in the first
seven games of the 1976 season, is the only player to hit more in
that span.

"I love Mike," Rodriguez said. "He's one of my favorite
players of all time. It's always an honor."

Skeptics will point out that all this production is coming
during the regular season. But the two-time AL MVP went 1-for-14 in
the playoffs last year, when he was dropped to eighth in the
batting order for the final game, and is 4-for-41 (.098) without an
RBI in his last 12 playoff games dating to 2004.

During his first tour with the Yankees, Pettitte became
synonymous with postseason success. He helped them to four World
Series titles and six AL pennants, and his 14 postseason victories
are second only to Atlanta's John Smoltz (15).

The Yankees gave Pettitte a $16 million, one-year contract with
a $16 million player option in hopes that he can shore up a shaky

"All is well ... tonight," Pettitte quipped.

Pettitte allowed more than one runner only once, and got Michael
Cuddyer to bounce into a double play and MVP Justin Morneau to
ground out to first to get out of the fourth.

It was a familiar sight for manager Ron Gardenhire, whose Twins
haven't been able to get the bats going since scoring 17 runs in a
three-game sweep of Baltimore to open the season.

Now he can add starting pitching to his list of concerns.

"Obviously, you don't want to give up home runs, but Boof's
fine," Gardenhire said during a sometimes-testy postgame
interview. "Boof just got a couple balls up tonight and they hit
them out."

After Twins starters looked sharp in the first four games of the
season, Sidney Ponson was pounded in an 8-2 loss to New York on
Monday night, and Bonser was knocked around on Tuesday. Bonser gave
up seven runs -- six earned -- and six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

"I don't know what happened there. I went out for the fifth and
it seemed like the wheels came off," Bonser said. "I threw good
pitches and they just hit them."

Game notes
The Twins' Nick Punto snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a
single in the fourth. ... Jeter was 2-for-5 and moved into a tie
with Joe DiMaggio in seventh place on the Yankees' career list with
6,821 at-bats. He also stole his 250th career base in the fifth.
... Scott Proctor allowed an RBI single to Jason Kubel in the
seventh for the Twins' only run.