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A-Rod, Sabathia end Yanks' skid

NEW York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez marked his return to the lineup by belting the first pitch he faced for a three-run homer to back the shutout pitching of C.C. Sabathia in a 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday.

Rodriguez, baseball's highest paid player, and Sabathia, the game's highest paid pitcher, joined forces to end a five-game losing skid for the Yankees.

The third baseman, who missed the season's first 28 games after hip surgery, followed first-inning walks to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira by smacking a fast ball from Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie over the wall in left to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

With fans waving foam syringes a few rows behind the plate, A-Rod sent the ball soaring for his 554th career homer.

That was all the support Sabathia needed in Baltimore.

The big left-hander limited the Orioles to four hits, while striking out eight and walking only one hitter. He retired 16 in a row from the third inning until Cesar Izturis's lead-off single in the ninth.

Brian Roberts blooped a single to left to give Baltimore the hint of a rally, but Sabathia roared back to strike out the next three hitters to end it.

"That was exciting," said 12-time All-Star Rodriguez, appearing in his first game since admitting he took performance-enhancing drugs while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003.

"It was a great way to get the game started and to give CC a cushion and the rest was all his. It was his night," added A-Rod, in the second season of a 10-year, US$275 million deal.

Sabathia, who signed a seven-year, US$161 million deal in the offseason, improved to 2-3 with his dominant performance. He said the whole team got a lift from A-Rod's return.

"Everybody was excited," Sabathia told reporters. "That was unbelievable, on his first pitch to go deep.

"Alex coming back and hitting that homer, you should have seen our dugout," the pitcher said about the reaction of his teammates, who swarmed Rodriguez after his blast.

Elsewhere in the American League, it was: Red Sox 7, Rays 3; Angels 4, Royals 1; Athletics 5, Blue Jays 3; Rangers 6, White Sox 0; Twins 11, Mariners 0; and Tigers 1, Indians 0.

In the National League, it was: Giants 3, Dodgers 1; Brewers 3, Cubs 2; Phillies 10, Braves 6; Mets 7, Pirates 3; Marlins 8, Rockies 3; Astros 2, Padres 0; Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 4; Reds 6, Cardinals 4.


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