A-Rod makes Twins pay after walk to Teixeira

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez waited on deck, with runners at second and third and the Yankees trailing by a run in the seventh inning. Boy, did Ron Gardenhire have a tough decision to make.

Pitch to Mark Teixeira or intentionally walk him and bring in right-handed sinkerballer Matt Guerrier to replace Brian Duensing? Even though A-Rod was 4 for 6 against Guerrier with three home runs?

Yup, Guerrier came in.

And the ball went out.

Rodriguez hit his 19th career grand slam, moving past Frank Robinson into sole possession of seventh place with his 587th home run and powering the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-4 Friday night.

"That's why I hit fourth," A-Rod said. "My team is expecting me to get big hits in those type of situations."

He was so excited as the ball went over the left-field wall that he nearly carried his bat all the way to first base. He then raised a fist in triumph after the drive gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead.

"We're always aware of the numbers," Gardenhire said. "I know he has been good against Matty. Sometimes you can't do anything about the numbers. We're going to go with our best pitcher at the time."

Rodriguez tied Eddie Murray for third in career slams, trailing only Lou Gehrig (23) and Manny Ramirez (21). He didn't want to make too much of his success against Guerrier.

"To face a guy only seven times is not a lot of history," said A-Rod, who first faced Guerrier in July 2005.

On Guerrier's first pitch, Rodriguez grounded a ball foul down the third-base line. Gardenhire had been hoping for an inning-ending double play.

"I'm trying to get a groundball," Guerrier said. "I did it on the first pitch and then left one over the plate. I know he's got good numbers against me, so I said, 'It's my time to get him out.'"

Not quite.

"I felt like it was an out," Guerrier said, "but you put backspin on the ball and hit it that high, and it's going to go away."

It was just the 15th time in Rodriguez's career a batter was intentionally walked to load the bases for him, according to STATS LLC. The last six occasions have been walks to Teixeira -- including one by Tampa Bay's Andy Sonnanstine last Oct. 4, when Rodriguez had two homers and seven RBIs in the sixth inning to keep alive his streaks of 30-homer and 100-RBI seasons.

Rodriguez is 4 for 4 with two homers and 14 RBIs following international walks to Teixeira, according to STATS LLC.

"Whenever you can load the bases and try to get a groundball, righty on righty, it really doesn't matter who's hitting," said Teixeira, who understood Gardenhire's decision.

New York overcame a seventh-inning deficit against Scott Baker and has won 24 of 27 regular-season home games against Minnesota dating to 2002, including nine in a row.

Brett Gardner homered into the right-field bleachers in the fourth inning and slid home to score from first on Teixeira's fifth-inning double.

Joe Mauer hit an opposite-field drive to left for his first home run since April 6, then singled in the tying run in the seventh inning and scored on Justin Morneau's double off an ineffective Damaso Marte as Minnesota rallied from 3-2 down.

Joba Chamberlain (1-1) struck out the side in the eighth. He said it was important to shut down the Twins there, using a strange phrase even Yogi Berra never thought of.

"You don't want to sleep a waking dog," Chamberlain said.

Francisco Cervelli added an RBI triple in the eighth -- his second triple this month -- and Mariano Rivera finished with a three-groundout ninth.

A.J. Burnett settled down after a wild opening two innings, when he threw just 17 of 39 pitches for strikes. He wound up allowing three runs -- two earned -- seven hits and four walks in 6 2/3 innings. Baker gave up five runs and 10 hits in six-plus innings, struck out nine and walked none.

With New York trailing 4-3, Cervelli legged out an infield hit leading off the seventh against Baker, beating second baseman Orlando Hudson's throw. Derek Jeter, in a 1-for-23 slide, lined a pitch off Baker's right leg and wound up with a double when the ball ricocheted into right field.

Duensing relieved, and Gardner lined to left. The came Gardenhire's big decision. And A-Rod's big homer.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had pulled out his binder and was aware of the numbers. He followed Gardenhire's logic.

"You draw things up," Girardi said, "and sometimes they just don't work."

Game notes
The gap of 91 at-bats between homers for Mauer was his longest since he went 102 without one from Aug. 16-Sept. 15, 2008, according to STATS. ... Yankees RF Nick Swisher, who has been bothered by a sore left biceps, was replaced by Randy Winn after three innings. Swisher went to a hospital for an MRI, which was negative, and was diagnosed with a slight strain. ... Cervelli is 10 for 13 with runners in scoring position.