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Rodriguez closes in, so do the Yankees

From the Associated Press

Alex Rodriguez and Jorge De La Rosa have been here before, facing each other at a milestone moment.

A little over two years ago, De La Rosa gave up Rodriguez’s 400th career home run. Guess who’ll be on the mound for Kansas City tonight when Rodriguez tries to become the youngest member of the 500-home run club?

“It’s a crazy thing,” Rodriguez said after hitting No. 499 off Gil Meche (7-7) in the eighth inning of Wednesday night’s 7-1 victory over the Royals. “It’s pretty unbelievable that it could actually work out that way.”

De La Rosa was pitching for Milwaukee on June 8, 2005, when Rodriguez became the first player with 400 homers before his 30th birthday. He had little to say Wednesday night about the prospect of facing Rodriguez with No. 500 possible.

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“I’m going to pitch him very carefully,” De La Rosa said.

Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui also homered to help extend the Yankees’ winning streak to six and bring them as close to the Boston Red Sox as they’ve been in 2 1/2 months.

Rodriguez had a chance to reach 500 in the ninth inning, but he struck out against former teammate Octavio Dotel.

Rodriguez, who turns 32 Friday, would surpass Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days) as the youngest player to reach 500 homers. Rodriguez would be the 22nd to reach the mark and the second this season behind Frank Thomas.

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With its 11th win in 13 games, New York closed within 6 1/2 games of the AL East-leading Red Sox. The Yankees, who trailed by 14 1/2 games in late May, had not been this close since they were six back of Boston before play on May 10.

“We like what we’re doing,” Manager Joe Torre said. “There’s obviously a lot of baseball left, and the important part from here on out is to make sure the good streaks outnumber the bad ones, to minimize the damage and try to maximize what we’re doing now.”

New York (54-46), a season-high eight games above .500, got 13 hits for the third straight night and stayed 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland, the AL wild-card leader.

Mike Mussina (5-7) allowed one run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He had been 0-2 in three starts since beating Oakland on June 29.


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