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Yanks walk off on A-Rod's tater in 11th

Yanks walk off on A-Rod's homer

NEW YORK -- With 45,455 fans on their feet, a smiling Alex Rodriguez stood on the field at new Yankee Stadium, taking in every second, as he did a 360-degree turn before finally uttering just one syllable.

"Wow."

Moments later, Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett snuck up on Rodriguez to give him the customary shaving cream pie to the face, capping a moment that even A-Rod didn't see coming.

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Rodriguez might have been no match for a hooded Burnett, but he had no problem launching Twins reliever Craig Breslow's slider over the left-field fence for a two-run homer in the 11th inning, leaving his mark on the new Yankee Stadium and giving his team a 6-4 extra-innings win.

"He's one of the few guys who have the ability to do this fairly often," manager Joe Girardi said. "Not everybody can hit a ball 500 feet, but he has the ability at any time."

On Saturday afternoon, Rodriguez couldn't have picked a better time. With Breslow choosing to walk red-hot Mark Teixeira to open the bottom of the 11th inning, A-Rod undoubtedly had dreams of ending the 3 1/2-hour game.

After all, Rodriguez -- who has played eight games since returning from right hip surgery on March 9 -- had to convince Girardi to start him again at third base in the first place.

"You ask me, I'm always going to play," Rodriguez said.

And so the Yankees' answer came running across the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning, following Teixeira into the joyous arms of his huddled teammates.

"This is a tribute to all the guys in this clubhouse for staying together and not getting down," starter Joba Chamberlain said. "And the great leadership that [the veterans] have towards all the young guys. Those guys lead by example -- and they never get down or get in a rut -- to show the character of this team."

Perhaps no one personifies that statement more than Teixeira, who put together a string of six straight hits (dating back to the seventh inning on Friday night) to break out of a season-long slump.

Teixeira tied a career high with four hits and drove in four runs, including a two-out, three-run homer in the third inning.

"We know that he can't do that every day," Girardi said, "but we know that this is what he's capable of doing any day."

Girardi acknowledged that the return of A-Rod batting behind Teixeira forces opposing pitchers to pick their poison.

"For Mark, we know that he's an RBI machine; he has the ability to do that," Girardi said. "Alex is a beast behind him, so you got to make a pick which one you want to try to get."

The Yankees forced extra innings courtesy of Hideki Matsui, who led off the bottom of the eighth with a pinch-hit double. Derek Jeter bunted pinch-runner Ramiro Pena to the third, and after Johnny Damon grounded out, Teixeira drilled a two-seamer from Nick Blackburn into right field for a game-tying RBI single.

With the score deadlocked at 4, New York closer Mariano Rivera came on to pitch a perfect ninth and work his way out of a 10th-inning jam.

Given the fact that Rivera was rested and tossed an 11-pitch ninth inning, Girardi said he had no qualms running the veteran back out there for a second inning.

"He wanted to go back out and I wanted him to go back out," Girardi said. "And it worked out well."

So did the blueprint for Chamberlain, who tweaked his warmup routine and set the tone of the game early on.

In an effort to combat his first-inning struggles, the Yankees had Chamberlain throw about a dozen pitches to simulated batters to try to jump-start his late-game velocity. Chamberlain came out blazing, with a fastball that touched 94 mph, as he struck out Denard Span and Brendan Harris in the first, ending the inning on 14 pitches.

"Joba's got great stuff. Everyone knows that," Teixeira said. "And now he's settling into that starter's role and he's been big for us."

After yielding a walk and a single, Chamberlain got a big lift with one out in the second inning, when the Yankees turned Brian Buscher's sacrifice fly into a double play.

Chamberlain exited after six innings of three-hit baseball, and appeared to be on cruise control most of the afternoon, allowing just two runs -- including a solo homer -- and striking out six.

"The most important thing is we got the victory," said Rodriguez, who was visibly tired but still wearing an ear-to-ear grin.

"Teixeira played like the superstar he is, the pitchers did a phenomenal job, and overall, it was a good win."

And it was a win full of positive moments for the Yankees. And one very big "Wow."

Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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