Teixeira's three homers ties Gehrig record

Teixeira's three homers ties Gehrig record

BOSTON -- Every time another Yankee milestone occurs these days, Lou Gehrig's name comes to the forefront. Hits, games played, you name it.

So it was again on Saturday, when Mark Teixeira became only the second player in Yankees history to smack three homers in a single game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The last Yankees player to do it was Gehrig, of course -- on June 23, 1927. That was also the only other time a Yankee has hit three homers in a game against the Red Sox in either New York or Boston.

"Man, that's humbling right there," the unassuming Teixeira said after the Yankees crushed the rival Red Sox, 14-3. "Any time you talk about the Yankees -- Gehrig, [Joe] DiMaggio, the list goes on and on -- it makes you realize you have a long way to go to be in their category. So there's a lot of work for me left to do."

The offensive eruption couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

Just when the Yankees needed it most, with Nick Johnson joining Curtis Granderson on the disabled list, Teixeira came out of his batting funk. The switch-hitting first baseman came in batting .181 with two homers and 15 RBIs. In the game, he also had a single, scored three runs, had five RBIs and is now hitting .207.

It was the third time in Teixeira's career he hit three homers in a game and he became the first Yankee to do it since Alex Rodriquez against the Angels on April 26, 2005, at the old Yankee Stadium. The feat has been accomplished now 25 times in Yankees history by 19 different players. Gehrig and DiMaggio each did it three times.

Gehrig is the only Yankee to hit four in a game, and he did it on June 3, 1932, against the A's at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

Last year, Derek Jeter passed Gehrig and became the all-time leader on the team's hit list. Jeter now has 2,785. Recently, he passed the Iron Horse and went into second place behind Mickey Mantle in total games played as a Yankee. Saturday made it 2,167.

It was the 26th multihomer game of Teixeira's career. His previous two-homer extravaganza came this past Sept. 9, and his last three-homer blowout was June 22, 2008, against the Mariners as a member of the Angels.

On Saturday, Teixeira was 4-for-6. He grounded into a first-inning double play and had another hit stolen in the eighth inning when Red Sox center fielder Darnell McDonald dove to snare a line drive. Teixeira had an RBI single in the third. His homers came in the fifth, seventh and ninth.

"The last thing you want to do is a let a good hitter get hot," said Red Sox skipper Terry Francona. "The first at-bat, we get him to ground into a double play. Then we get ahead 0-2 and misfired a fastball and he gets the ball for the base hit. And then it looked like he got locked in. He gets very dangerous, as good hitters do."

In the fifth, Teixeira crushed a first-pitch Clay Buchholz fastball into the far away right-center-field bleachers. In the seventh, not long after a one-hour, 14-minute, rain delay, he took Ramon Ramirez into the right-field seats.

And in the ninth, when the game was far out of reach, Francona brought in outfielder Jonathan Van Every to mop up. With Jeter on second, Teixeira planted a two-run shot over the Green Monster, giving him more homers in the game then he had amassed beforehand for the season.

Teixeira said he took that particular at-bat quite seriously. Van Every had just whiffed Brett Gardner looking.

"When I saw him to do that, I knew he had an idea," Teixeira said. "I really [bore] down on that at-bat. I told myself, 'This isn't a position player. It's a pitcher trying to get me out.' I just laid back waiting for him to give me a good pitch, and that's what happened. It was fastball down the middle."

Coupled with Rodriguez, the Yanks' regular three-four hitters were on base nine of 11 times in the game. A-Rod, who singled twice and walked three times, scored three runs and had an RBI.

Teixeira hadn't smacked a homer since April 22 at Oakland. He closed April hitting .136, but has been on a steady rise since then. Including Saturday's performance, Teixeira is batting .400 (12-for-30) in seven May games. His first three hits (two homers) on Saturday all came from the left side. The ninth-inning homer was from the right.

It was the ninth time in his career he's hit homers from both sides of the plate in a single game.

Last year, his first with the Yankees after signing an eight-year, $180 million free-agent deal, Teixeira was a .200 hitter with three homers and 10 RBIs the first month of the season. But as April transitioned to May, the same metamorphosis as this season occurred. He hit .330 in May with 13 homers and 34 RBIs.

This mirrors an historical pattern in Teixeira's career, now in its eighth year. Prior to this season, from late March through April, he was a .235 hitter with 24 homers and 83 RBIs. In May, he's hit .297 with 39 homers and 148 RBIs.

Asked about Teixeira's slow starts, Yanks manager Joe Girardi said he was baffled.

"I wish I knew," he said. "This year I was hoping he would get over it. He was hitting the ball well in Spring Training. I thought when the season started it would carry over. But that didn't happen."

"If I knew we wouldn't be having this conversation," Teixeira added. "There are hundreds of theories, but the fact is that it's just the way it's been. But at the same time, it turns around. And despite the slow starts, I always seem to have good seasons."

It's probably no solace that Gehrig was a .318 hitter in April and a .328 hitter in May. Next year, that will give Teixeira another Gehrig mark to aim at.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.