NEW YORK - Alex Rodriguez is on a home run tear, and the New York Yankees are playing their best baseball of the year.
Rodriguez homered for the fourth straight game and New York held off the San Diego Padres 8-5 Wednesday night, setting a season high with its sixth consecutive victory.
“I feel good, but the whole team is swinging the bat with a lot of confidence. That’s very contagious,” Rodriguez said.
Darrell Rasner snapped his four-start losing streak, with plenty of help from the Yankees offense and bullpen. New York beat NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, chasing him after four innings in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
“I felt a whole lot better than I did five days ago. The results just weren’t there,” Peavy said. “The first two innings took a lot out of me.”
Johnny Damon had three hits and two RBIs for the Yankees, who have won 11 of 14 to move a season-best six games above .500. Wilson Betemit also had three hits, and Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth for his 19th save in 19 chances.
New York goes for its second series sweep in a row Thursday, with Joba Chamberlain on the mound.
“We are just playing consistent baseball,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Brian Giles and Adrian Gonzalez hit consecutive homers for San Diego in the seventh, cutting the deficit to 5-4.
Chase Headley added his first major league home run in the eighth, making it to 7-5, before Kyle Farnsworth retired pinch-hitter Scott Hairston and Jody Gerut with a runner on second to end the inning.
“It’s bittersweet, obviously,” Headley said. “To get your first home run and to get it at Yankee Stadium is something really special and something 20 years from now I’ll look back and enjoy. But obviously, it’s better when you win.”
Rodriguez finished with three hits, two RBIs and a stolen base. He also scored twice and made a nice backhand play at third with two on to end the fourth.
San Diego was not as sharp in the field, committing two more errors while falling to 11-24 on the road. The Padres made five errors in their first 10 innings on defense in this series after entering with a major league-best .990 fielding percentage.
Rasner (4-4) walked five in five innings, but yielded only two runs and three hits to rebound from a poor outing last week at Oakland.
“It’s always nice to get back in the win column. It’s been a long time,” he said.
Making his first career appearance at Yankee Stadium, Peavy (5-4) gave up four runs — three earned — and six hits. On a pitch count of 85-95, he lasted 93 as he rebuilds his stamina.
“Next time, get that up over 100 and hopefully things will work a little better,” Peavy said.
The right-hander missed nearly a month with a strained right elbow before returning to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 last Thursday.
“His stuff was good. His velocity was there. A hard slider and throwing the ball around the plate. The Yankees put together some good at-bats,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “He came out of it healthy. His elbow is fine.”
After the start was delayed 78 minutes by rain, the Yankees jumped ahead in the first inning. Damon led off with a single and scored on a throwing error by shortstop Khalil Greene as he tried to turn a double play.
Robinson Cano hit a booming double in the second and Betemit followed with a blooper that bounced into the left-field stands for a ground-rule double. Damon’s two-out RBI single made it 3-0.
Rasner walked Greene leading off the third, and Edgar Gonzalez’s two-run double snapped a 22-inning scoreless streak for New York pitchers. Headley flied out with the bases loaded, ending the inning.
Rodriguez hit a solo shot to left off Peavy in the bottom half, his 14th this season and No. 532 in his career — two behind Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx for 14th place.
“Peavy’s an awesome competitor. I wish we had him on our team,” Rodriguez said. “Although we didn’t get a lot of runs early, we were able to get him out of there. We knew he was on a pitch count.”
Jorge Posada’s two-out RBI single off Bryan Corey in the fifth extended the lead to 5-2.
Giles connected off Edwar Ramirez with two outs in the seventh and Adrian Gonzalez followed with his 20th of the season, tying Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard for the NL RBI lead at 63.
The Yankees responded immediately in the bottom half. Derek Jeter hit a leadoff double and Bobby Abreu an RBI single against Justin Hampson. Abreu stole second and scored on Rodriguez’s single off Cla Meredith to make it 7-4.
Headley hit a leadoff shot in the eighth, but Damon pushed it to 8-5 with a two-out RBI single in the bottom half.
Notes: The Padres have hit back-to-back homers four times this season. Giles and Adrian Gonzalez also accomplished the feat last Thursday. ... The Yankees are 19-9 since Rodriguez came off the disabled list May 20. They went 6-11 while he was on the DL, averaging only 3.5 runs per game. ... The Yankees have homered in 11 straight games.
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