A-Rod homers, now 12 within Mays

NEW YORK -- Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was greeted with more boos than cheers as he stepped into the batter's box in the second inning of Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers.

But there were no boos -- only emphatic cheers -- from the Yankee Stadium crowd after he connected for his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander leading off the frame.

"I think the fans have been incredible. I said that yesterday. You want to turn boos into cheers, you want to make them proud," Rodriguez said after going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs in his team's 5-4 walk-off victory against the Tigers. "All you want is really an opportunity, and I think New York always gives you that. I feel that way walking around the city; the support has never been stronger. I'm very thankful."

The embattled 38-year-old slugger lofted a 1-0, 92 mph fastball from Verlander into the left-field seats for his first regular-season homer since Sept. 14, 2012, against the Tampa Bay Rays.

"It's good to get that first one out of the way, and we needed this win," Rodriguez said. "It was good to win a series and a game against a good pitcher."

It was Rodriguez's 648th career homer; he's now just 12 homers shy of tying Willie Mays on the all-time list. If Rodriguez ties Mays, he will get a $6 million bonus.

Rodriguez also now has 1,951 career RBIs, and surpassed St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial for fifth place on that list.

"It means I'm getting old. When you think about names like that, it's obviously so humbling," Rodriguez said. "It makes you think you've been around a long time, but those are things you can reflect on after you're done playing."

After Rodriguez crossed the plate following the home run, he pointed two fingers to the sky.

Heading into the at-bat, Rodriguez, who is currently appealing a 211-game suspension through the 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy, was 3-for-15 this season, with no hits off right-handers.

Rodriguez, appearing in just his fifth game of the season, was booed after committing an error in the third inning. Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez hit a slow roller to third. A-Rod charged and tried to field it, but couldn't come up with it cleanly.

Rodriguez ripped an RBI single down the first-base line with two outs in the fourth. He received more cheers than boos when he was introduced for his second at-bat.

Rodriguez popped out to first in his third at-bat. In his fourth and final at-bat, Rodriguez heard mostly cheers from the crowd before grounding out to third. Rodriguez redeemed himself in the field in the eighth, backhanding an Austin Jackson grounder headed down the third-base line and firing to second baseman Robinson Cano to get the force. Replays, however, showed runner Jose Iglesias may have been safe. Rodriguez, nevertheless, pumped his fist after the play.

The founder of an anti-steroids organization that worked with Rodriguez since he first admitted using performance-enhancing drugs four years ago is disappointed the slugger has still not called to explain his recent doping suspension.

Don Hooton told The Associated Press at an event for the Taylor Hooton Foundation at Yankee Stadium Sunday that he wished Rodriguez would've reached out before MLB banned him last week.

Hooton said Rodriguez had done an outstanding job for the foundation but all the good work has been wiped out by the suspension.

Rodriguez first joined with Hooton after admitting in 2009 that he used steroids with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. Don Hooton started the foundation after his 17-year-old son committed suicide in 2003.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.