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A-Rod's 15th leads Pettitte to victory

A-Rod's 15th leads Pettitte to victory

NEW YORK -- Andy Pettitte provided a deep starting performance, Alex Rodriguez homered to pace the high-octane offense and the bullpen made it all stand up.

For at least one night, it played out as envisioned for the Yankees. Pettitte picked up his second victory of the season with seven innings of one-run ball as New York defeated Texas, 8-2, on Tuesday.

"I think we're starting to feel like we're starting to right this thing a little bit and get things straightened out," Pettitte said.

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"We're going to be all right," he added. "We've been saying it all along, but you'd like to have some results. This was a good game for us."

The Yankees appear to be turning the page on their sluggish April beginnings, in which the team finished the season's first month 9-14.

Since turning the calendar to May, the Yankees have won six of eight, including all four games they've played against the Rangers.

Indeed, things may be looking up around the Bronx. The Yankees finally mixed and matched their starting pitching with an assortment of productive youth and made a huge splash in landing their coveted prize, free-agent Roger Clemens.

Even the long-dormant bat of first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz is coming around; Mientkiewicz went 2-for-3 with an RBI in the Yankees' victory on Tuesday, extending his hitting streak to seven games and raising his average to .230.

The slow start created a measure of madness particularly for Pettitte, who at one point looked around his team's bandaged rotation and noted that it had been pretty much himself and four rookies.

The reinforcements are back now, with Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina having been activated off the disabled list. The Yankees will finally throw their top three pitchers in a series this week, and the festivities kicked off with Pettitte.

Lacking location on his fastball in the first few innings, Pettitte navigated clear of damage, leaving runners in scoring position over his first two innings before being touched for a run in the third.

The damage was held in the Texas third, as Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu ranged over to collect Hank Blalock's run-scoring double and hit cutoff man Robinson Cano. The ensuing feed to catcher Jorge Posada was in time to cut down Sammy Sosa at the plate, saving a run.

"That's the whole thing we're talking about -- defense really complements pitching," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Robbie made a good relay and Bobby got the ball in quickly. It's just nice to stop it -- minimize the damage."

"A big lift," Pettitte said. "That was a great play. Two great throws."

As it turned out, Pettitte had held the Rangers at bay long enough, scattering seven hits in a 108-pitch effort to collect his first victory since April 10.

Pettitte could have more wins if not for ineffective relief efforts, but he said that the most important thing was that Scott Proctor and Sean Henn provided relief on Tuesday, finishing up the eighth and ninth innings.

"You want to get 'Ws,' but I've been around long enough where you realize it's just part of it," Pettitte said. "The Ws are going to come. I'm not very concerned with it. I want to help this team win."

Pettitte said he felt good about his workload, but the same couldn't be stated of Texas starter Mike Wood.

The right-hander was slugged for eight runs (six earned) in four-plus innings of work, surrendering Rodriguez's Major League-leading 15th home run in the fifth inning.

Rodriguez, who tied a big-league record for home runs in April with 14, homered for the first time in 15 days with a two-run shot over the wall in right-center field.

"I've been about six inches off, just reaching a little bit," Rodriguez said.

Torre noted that the opposite-field approach was key for A-Rod, who hadn't gone deep since slugging a pair of blasts in an April 23 game at Tropicana Field.

"I think that's such a key to having him stay in there," Torre said. "That's what he was doing all last month."

Every batter in the starting lineup reached base, Derek Jeter had two RBIs and Cano, who had drawn concern for an unselective approach and was mired in a 1-for-21 skid, ripped a run-scoring double for the Yankees.

But for all the offense, it came down -- as usual -- to good pitching and defense. When the hurlers are putting zeros on the board and balls are being caught, everything else just seems to fall into place.

The Yankees' key will be making sure nights like these are the rule, not the exception.

"It's everything," Rodriguez said. "We can swing the bats as well as we can, but if we don't pitch and we don't play defense, we're not going anywhere."

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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