Alex Rodriguez hits record 24th slam

NEW YORK -- Move over, Iron Horse. It took 75 years, but you've just been passed by a Maybach.

Alex Rodriguez displaced Lou Gehrig as Major League Baseball's career leader in grand slams Friday night with a dramatic home run that gave the Yankees a much-needed 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Yankee Stadium.

A-Rod's blast -- his seventh of the season, the 654th of his career and his 24th career grand slam -- soared into the right-field seats on a 2-1 fastball from ex-Yankee George Kontos, breaking a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning and keeping the Yankees in the AL wild-card race with eight games left.

"You know, that means I'm getting old," said Rodriguez, 38. "It's hard to think about things like that right now. We're really on a sprint to the end here, and every win is huge for us."

Manager Joe Girardi, however, was happy to reflect on A-Rod's feat.

"It's an unbelievable accomplishment, and it's a big one for us," Girardi said. "To be able to have that many opportunities means you've been around a long time, but to be able to come through that many times means you've been a powerful hitter for a long time, and that's what he's been."

Rodriguez, who has recently been hobbled by hamstring and calf injuries that have limited him to DH duty over the past nine games, had one hit in his previous 25 at-bats prior to the grand slam.

Girardi said he thought Rodriguez was running "freer" Friday night than he had been during the Yankees' just-concluded three-game series on the artificial turf in Toronto, where they lost two of three to the Blue Jays.

"When I saw him run to first today I thought it was the best I had seen him run in a while," Girardi said. "He's a guy that uses his lower half a lot when he's hitting, and when you don't have it, it's a little more difficult."

Rodriguez agreed.

"I think my legs are getting better," he said. "I felt for the most part I've been swinging the bat decently, but I've been missing balls, hitting a lot of high, towering fly balls. But that's baseball. One swing can turn a lot of things around."

Rodriguez had tied Gehrig with 23 career grand slams on June 12, 2012, in Atlanta. At the time, he spoke of his admiration for the former Yankees star, who died in 1941 at age 37 of ALS, later known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Gehrig's last grand slam came on Aug. 20, 1938, when he was in his last full season with the Yankees.

"I'm a huge fan of Lou Gehrig, everything he's done, going back to his college days in New York," Rodriguez said. "He's kind of the gold standard for a Yankee. It's a special moment. I'll think about it someday."

The Yankees' victory left them three games back of the Cleveland Indians for the second AL wild-card spot and 3½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the Orioles in 18 innings on Friday night.

"We really needed it," Girardi said. "I don't know if we can afford to lose any more games. I kind of look at every game from here on out as extremely, extremely important, so Alex's hit was huge for us."

Rodriguez's home run earned a win for CC Sabathia, the Yankees' struggling ace who turned in his best performance in more than three months, holding the Giants to one run on seven hits in seven-plus innings.

After the game, Sabathia (14-13) called Rodriguez's home run "vintage" and his accomplishment of tying Gehrig "awesome." He also said he thought the Yankees needed to win all of their remaining eight games to remain in contention for a playoff spot.

"You've got to just think one game at a time," Rodriguez said. "It's hard to think eight or nine games out. Hopefully a game like tonight will get us going."