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A-Rod takes healthy cuts

He homers twice in seventh to lift Yankees

Alex Rodriguez is greeted by Derek Jeter (2) after hitting his second home run of the seventh inning. Alex Rodriguez is greeted by Derek Jeter (2) after hitting his second home run of the seventh inning. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)

Alex Rodriguez had a night befitting legends.

The Yankees planned to take him out of the starting lineup because of his sprained right ankle, but A-Rod talked his way in. Then he homered twice in an eight-run seventh inning to lead host New York over Seattle, 10-2, last night and help the Yankees open a three-game lead over the Mariners in the American League wild-card race.

Rodriguez arrived at Yankee Stadium limping following a collision with Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre Tuesday, and team's medical staff sent him downtown for an MRI. Rodriguez pronounced himself "ready to roll" and was upset that he had to go for the scan.

About an hour before game time, Yankees manager Joe Torre said Rodriguez likely would be limited to pinch-hitting duty. Rodriguez then tested his ankle with a few jogs in right field while the Mariners were finishing batting practice. He ran in foul territory toward the dugout, up a runway, and into the Yankees' clubhouse.

"I've got to talk to the manager," he said, never stopping as he went through the door.

He walked and popped out in his first two plate appearances against Jarrod Washburn (9-13). Then, with the Yankees trailing, 2-1, in the seventh, Rodriguez hit a 3-and-2 fastball over the retired numbers behind the fence in left-center. Pinch hitter Jorge Posada's bases-loaded walk off Sean Green put the Yankees ahead, and New York padded the margin on Johnny Damon's run-scoring grounder, Melky Cabrera's RBI single, and Derek Jeter's two-run double.

Rodriguez then drove a 2-and-1 pitch from Brandon Morrow into the left-field seats for a two-run homer.

Rodriguez, who leads the majors with 48 homers and 134 RBIs, had the 51st multihomer game of his career and became the first Yankees player to homer twice in an inning since Cliff Johnson June 30, 1977, at Toronto. The slumping Mariners have dropped 11 of 12.

Rodriguez's first home run came less than a minute after the Yankees announced the MRI revealed a sprain and a bruise.

Braves 9, Phillies 8 - Atlanta overcame two large deficits and pulled out a thrilling victory over visiting Philadelphia on Matt Diaz's three-run double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The Braves, who trailed, 5-0, and 8-2, made a game of it with four runs in the eighth - though their chances looked slim when Brett Myers (3-6) retired the first two hitters in the ninth. But Jeff Francoeur and Martin Prado hustled to beat out infield hits, and Yunel Escobar walked to load the bases.

That brought up Diaz, who went the opposite way with a liner that skidded off the glove of right fielder Chris Roberson and landed at the base of the wall as three runs crossed the plate.

Devil Rays 17, Orioles 2 - Carlos Pena homered twice, including a grand slam, and drove in a team-record seven runs as host Tampa Bay clobbered Baltimore.

Pena hit his fifth career grand slam and second this year, and Delmon Young had a three-run shot during an eight-run fourth. Pena added his 37th homer of the season, a two-run shot off Brian Burres in a three-run sixth.

Cubs 8, Dodgers 2 - Ted Lilly got his first win in nearly a month and Aramis Ramirez homered to help host Chicago defeat Los Angeles.

The Cubs remained a half-game ahead of Milwaukee in the National League Central.

Lilly (14-7) allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2/3 solid innings to win for the first time since Aug. 9 and tie Carlos Zambrano for the team lead in wins.

Brewers 14, Astros 2 - Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart each hit a three-run homer, and host Milwaukee connected five times in all to beat Houston.

Yovani Gallardo (7-4) pitched seven shutout innings and Milwaukee won for the fifth time in six games.

Diamondbacks 9, Padres 6 - Miguel Montero homered twice, Conor Jackson added another, and Chris Young drove in three runs as Arizona took a one-game lead in the NL West. San Diego ace Jake Peavy (16-6), pitching on three days' rest, gave up eight earned runs, matching a career high.

Indians 6, Twins 2 - Victor Martinez had two hits and two RBIs to back a quality start from Fausto Carmona (15-8), and Cleveland beat host Minnesota for its second three-game sweep of the Twins in the last 10 games.

Reds 7, Mets 0 - Brandon Phillips broke Joe Morgan's franchise record for homers by second baseman with his 28th of the season as host Cincinnati ended New York's five-game winning streak.

Rangers 3, Royals 2 - Vicente Padilla pitched two-hit shutout ball for six innings, Hank Blalock had two hits and two RBIs, and host Texas edged Kansas City.

Tigers 2, White Sox 1 - Timo Perez's single off the right-center field wall with two outs in the 11th inning lifted host Detroit over Chicago.

Pirates 8, Cardinals 2 - Mark Mulder was no savior in his first outing in more than a year as St. Louis was roughed up by visiting Pittsburgh.

Athletics 6, Angels 2 - Joe Blanton (12-9) settled down after a rocky start and Mark Ellis hit a three-run homer for visiting Oakland.

Nationals 6, Marlins 4 - Wily Mo Peña singled to break a tie in the seventh, leading host Washington to its fifth straight win.

Giants 5, Rockies 3 - Barry Bonds hit his 762d home run to back Kevin Correia's strong outing, and visiting San Francisco defeated Colorado to avoid a sweep.

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