MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Alex Rodriguez gave himself an early 40th birthday present.
Three of them, actually.
Rodriguez hit three home runs in a game for the fifth time in his career and keyed a ninth-inning rally against All-Star closer Glen Perkins, sending the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-5 Saturday night.
“Some people say that life starts at 40. I’ll sign up for that right now,” said A-Rod, who hits the mark Monday.
The Yankees trailed 5-0 early. Rodriguez connected on Perkins’ first pitch for a tying homer, and John Ryan Murphy later launched a three-run shot.
“Got to be one of my best feelings since I’ve been in the major leagues,” Murphy said. “There’s no greater feeling than knowing you just won the game for your team.”
Rodriguez bear-hugged Murphy in the dugout and picked him up. By then, the slugger had already showed his strength.
Rodriguez hit 452-foot solo homer in the fourth and a 422-foot drive that made it 5-3 in the seventh. His 424-foot homer in the ninth cleared the center field wall.
He clapped as he trotted around first base after each homer while fans at sold-out Target Field booed. The last time Rodriguez hit three home runs in a game was Aug. 14, 2010, at Kansas City. He didn’t play last season while sitting out a drug suspension.
“I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m appreciating everything the game has to offer,” he said.
Rodriguez has 23 homers this season and 677 in his career. He is now 6 for 10 lifetime against Perkins with two home runs.
With one out and runners on first and third, Murphy hit a 2-2 pitch from Perkins into the flower bed over the right-center field wall.
Perkins (0-2) didn’t blow a save chance before the All-Star break, but is 1 for 3 since. He had allowed just six runs all season before the Yankees tagged him for four.
“I saved however many to start the season and I said I’m going to blow games. I’m not going to be able to go out there and hit every spot like I have,” Perkins said. “It’s magnified. But I miss spots, everybody misses spots and I’ll learn from that.”
Adam Warren (6-5) pitched 2 1-3 innings in relief of CC Sabathia. Andrew Miller worked the ninth for his 23rd save.
“Maybe our best win of the year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Girardi’s decision to move Rodriguez to DH has helped rejuvenate the star.
“He’s been a guy that’s been productive all year,” Girardi said. “He’s been impressive.”
Torii Hunter hit his 208th career home run with the Twins, passing his mentor Kirby Puckett for sixth in team history and giving Minnesota a 5-0 lead in the third.
Aaron Hicks also homered to give the Twins a 2-0 lead off Sabathia in the first.
Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly cut Minnesota’s lead to 5-4 in a three-run seventh.
Sabathia was pulled after walking Brian Dozier to load the bases in the sixth.
Warren struck out Hicks on a check swing to end the threat, prompting Twins manager Paul Molitor to protest from the dugout and get ejected by plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
“He thought he saw enough to call the swing and I just voiced my opinion that I thought it was too close for him to make that call,” Molitor said. “That’s why they have the appeal process and it kind of spiraled down from there.”
PUCKETT JR. HAPPY FOR HUNTER
Less than 30 minutes after Hunter hit the home run to pass his father on the Twins’ all-time list, Kirby Puckett Jr. visited the press box to talk about the milestone.
“Seeing that my dad mentored him, it really is pretty cool to have him be the one because he used to take me under his wing when my dad was, when I was going through a lot,” Puckett Jr. said. “So, having him pass it, I wouldn’t rather have anybody else do it besides Torii.”
YANKEES ADD GOODY
New York added reliever Nick Goody from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to their active roster and optioned RHP Branden Pinder to Scranton before the game. Goody traveled from Scranton to Detroit to Minneapolis on Saturday morning and was available in the bullpen. The right-hander was 1-2 with a 1.68 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. To make room on the 40-man roster, New York designated INF Gregorio Petit for assignment.
SIXTH STARTER FOR TUESDAY
Girardi said before the game that a yet-to-be-announced pitcher will start Tuesday’s game at Texas in order to give the regulars in the rotation an extra day of rest.
“It’s a long stretch where guys are getting a lot of innings,” Girardi said. “We figured we’re better off just substituting one right there.”
Ivan Nova will start Monday, Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday and Michael Pineda on Thursday.
Twins: Minnesota hopes injured CF Byron Buxton (thumb) can start taking batting practice late next week. From there, general manager Terry Ryan said Buxton will head to Florida to continue rehabbing before going out on an official rehab assignment in the minors.
Kyle Gibson (8-7, 3-19) will try to lower his career 10.95 ERA against the Yankees in Sunday’s series finale. The Yankees will start Nathan Eovaldi(9-2, 4.43), who is 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA in his last six starts.
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