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A-Rod's tear continues in win

A-Rod's tear continues in win

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's blistering April has progressed to the point where even his teammates aren't sure what to make of it.

Rodriguez slugged his Major League-leading ninth home run Wednesday, helping cushion Kei Igawa to his first Major League victory as the Yankees pulled off a 9-2 drubbing of the Cleveland Indians.

For his part, Rodriguez has remained cool, perhaps not wishing to interrupt a terrific run that has taken him to the periphery of the record books.

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"I'm just feeling good," Rodriguez said. "Even when I get myself out, I know exactly what I did. I can't wait to get up there and fix it."

Rodriguez said he hasn't smiled this much since the birth of his daughter, Natasha, who was born in Nov. 2004. That's a pretty good stretch of time, and now that Rodriguez is simultaneously grinning and hitting, his teammates seem to be enjoying the run just as much.

"These are the times you dream about as a player," Jason Giambi said. "He's getting no cheapies. It's great to see, and I'm glad he's started out like this. For him, it's got to be exciting."

While Rodriguez maintains there is no secret behind his hot streak, the third baseman has hit safely in all 13 of New York's games this season and leads the Majors with 23 RBIs. He is just five homers shy of equaling the big-league record for the month of April, set last season by Albert Pujols.

"I don't know how you do it," said Derek Jeter, who had three of the Yankees' 14 hits Wednesday. "He's as hot as I've seen a player. Everything he hits is a home run. When he makes outs, he hits it hard. All he has to do is make contact, and it seems like it's going out."

Rodriguez and Giambi provided the long ball portion of the Yankees' attack, going back-to-back against relievers Tom Mastny and Aaron Fultz, respectively, in a three-run sixth inning.

After a slow start, Giambi has now reached base in nine of his last 13 plate appearances, a stretch that includes two home runs and a double.

The improved performance may be part weather -- Giambi said the trip to more favorable atmospheres in Minnesota and Oakland helped him -- but credit may also be due to a small tweak Giambi has made, leveling out his swing.

"I'm just making a few adjustments, working on things," Giambi said. "I started out and got a few hits, then went cold a little bit. It's starting to come together at a good time, especially as hot as Alex is, to give him some pitches in front of me."

The heart of the Yankees' damage against Cleveland pitching occurred in the third, as New York sent 10 men to the plate in an inning -- doing so for the second consecutive evening.

This time, the brunt of the barrage came against Indians starter Jeremy Sowers, who faced nine batters in the third inning and was lifted after just 2 2/3 frames, charged with six runs and nine hits. Five Yankees had run-scoring hits in the frame.

The outbursts provided more than enough support for Igawa, who recorded his first Major League victory and took home the lineup card as a congratulatory gift from manager Joe Torre.

Top to bottom, the Yankees' order serves as a reminder of what backed him to a 'W' on Wednesday, but it also is a comforting thought for Igawa's future contests.

"I have the best lineup in the world," Igawa said through an interpreter. "I'm very happy to have that."

Making his third start and coming off a solid 5 1/3-inning effort his last time out at Oakland, Igawa allowed two runs in the third inning, surrendering run-scoring hits to Jason Michaels and Travis Hafner.

But Igawa -- who came into this season as a great unknown and has seen his role take on added importance with injuries to veterans Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano -- made good use of his changeup and curve, to keep the Indians off balance.

"Right now, he's got it together, as far as I'm concerned," Torre said.

Igawa kept the Tribe off the board in five other frames before Scott Proctor and Sean Henn followed with scoreless innings. Chris Britton polished off Cleveland with a blank ninth.

Pitching coach Ron Guidry said that he noticed Igawa threw fewer pitches in his bullpen session on Wednesday, cutting off his pregame workout after apparently finding the proper feel on his changeup.

Guidry said that he would remind Igawa of that fact when he prepares for his next outing, but Guidry believes that Igawa's biggest obstacle will be continue to be learning American League hitters and adjusting on the fly.

Igawa said he was unfamiliar with the Indians lineup until he saw them in action against rookie Chase Wright on Tuesday, and it would figure that his added and continued exposure could only help him gain comfort in his new surroundings.

"He might develop into the guy that we think he's going to be," Guidry said. "But that's going to take some time."

Good news for Yankees fans: Igawa, who has already drawn attention for a devoted work ethic, only seemed mildly satisfied with the effort, in which he scattered five hits, walked one and struck out five, but also threw a wild pitch and hit a batter.

"This is considered my minimum," Igawa said. "There is still room for improvement."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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