A-Rod’s slam takes bite out of dog days

What a way to break out of a slump. The dog days of August have had their clutches on Alex Rodriguez all month, but he did some major barking of his own with a grand slam off J.R. Graham in the seventh inning Tuesday night that turned a 4-1 deficit to the Twins into a 5-4 lead for the Yankees, who went on to an 8-4 victory to stay one game ahead of Toronto in the American League East.

How bad had things been going for A-Rod? Well, he was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats, had one hit in his past 27 at-bats and was hitting .125 with three doubles and two RBI in 56 at-bats in August.

But the inning was setting up in his favor as Twins lefthander Ryan O’Rourke kept putting runners on base — Chase Headley with a leadoff single and walks to Brendan Ryan and Brett Gardner. Graham was summoned to calm things down, but he threw gasoline on the fire with a flat fastball on a 1-0 count over the heart of the plate that Rodriguez crushed to right-center. The blow increased A-Rod’s major league record for grand slams to 25.

Yankees hitters have a major-league-high 32 home runs of at least three runs (25 three-run homers, seven grand slams. Just one other club has more than 20. The Yanks have scored 34 of 69 runs this month on home runs. Yankees pitchers meanwhile have allowed 3 homers of at least three runs (12 three-run homers, one grand slam).

It was the first home run for Rodriguez since July 27, his 40th birthday, at Arlington, Texas, when he joined Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players to hit home runs before their 20th and after their 40th birthdays. A-Rod had gone 72 at-bats between home runs, and the timing to end that drought could not have been better.

The salami took Yankees starter CC Sabathia off the hook. He retired the first 13 batters of the game and was in a 1-1 game in the top of the seventh when Minnesota took the lead on a two-run home run by Miguel Sano and added a run on three straight singles later in the inning.

But while Sabathia has not had much run support when he has been on the mound this season he has received it quite often after he has come out of games. Tuesday night marked the seventh time this year the Yankees have come back to score enough runs to spare CC a losing decision. His 4-9 record may be unsightly, but it could be 4-16.

Headley, who got the game-winning RBI in the 10th inning Monday night, was supposed to have Tuesday night off. He came off the bench to start the seventh-inning rally with a single, remained in the game at third base and knocked in two more runs in the eighth with a double. Some day off.

Mark Teixeira did get the night off with a shin bruise. Rookie Greg Bird played first base and got his first major-league RBI with a single in the fourth inning to score Carlos Beltran, who had doubled as part of a 2-for-4 performance that continued his torrid hitting since the All-Star break (.303, 13 runs, seven doubles, six home runs, 12 RBI, 13 walks).

Yet this looked like a Twins night until A-Rod howled back at that August moon.

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