Slow-starting Teixeira a tower of power

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 9, 2010

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Mark Teixeira was watching from the on-deck circle when Yankees teammate Brett Gardner struck out facing Red Sox outfielder Jonathan Van Every in the ninth inning yesterday.

“He’s never going to live that down. I’m going to see him at Old-Timers’ Day in 40 years and we’re going to be talking about that at-bat,’’ Teixeira said.

But after the initial chuckle, Teixeira told himself to go to the plate in his normal frame of mind. To do otherwise would be to risk the same embarrassment.

“I thought maybe this guy had an idea,’’ Teixeira said. “I had to bear down. I looked for a strike and tried to put a good swing on it.’’

Van Every, pitching only because the Sox had worn out their bullpen on a long day of baseball, threw a 79-mile-per-hour “fastball’’ and Teixeira hammered it off the light tower in left field.

It was the third home run of the game for Teixeira, who was 4 for 6 with five RBIs as the Yankees beat the Sox, 14-3. Teixeira joined another first baseman, Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, as the only Yankees to homer three times in a game against the Sox.

“That’s humbling right there,’’ Teixeira said. “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 that category.’’

It was the third time in his career that Teixeira has homered three times, the first since June 22, 2008, when he was playing for Atlanta. It was the ninth time he has homered from both sides of the plate. The first two home runs yesterday came lefthanded, the shot from Van Every from the right side. Before yesterday, he had two home runs in 105 at-bats.

Teixeira grounded into a double play in the first inning, helping Sox starter Clay Buchholz escape a jam. Teixeira started to heat up in the third inning with an RBI single to right field for the game’s first run.

Teixeira hit a solo home run in the fifth inning against Buchholz and opened the seventh inning with a solo shot off Ramon Ramirez.

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

Teixeira has tormented the Sox since he spurned them as a free agent to sign with the Yankees before the 2009 season. In 23 games as a Yankee, he has hit .323 against the Sox with 9 home runs, 23 RBIs, and 22 runs.

When the Sox won the first eight games against the Yankees last season, owner John Henry wrote “the MT curse?’’ on his Twitter account. Teixeira didn’t appreciate the jibe and has been paying the Sox back since. The Yankees have won 13 of their last 15 games against the Sox.

“These are big games for us,’’ Teixeira said. “We wanted to come in here and win the series and we’ve done that now. That’s our motto, to win every series.’’

Teixeira is having a typical season in that he started slow and is now turning it on. He hit .136 with a .300 on-base percentage in 22 games in April, driving in nine runs. He is a career .235 hitter in games played in March or April.

But in the seven games played this month, Teixeira is hitting .400 with 11 RBIs. The Yankees have won six of those games and now trail the Tampa Bay Rays by a half-game in the American League East.

“I seem to be able to turn it on,’’ Teixeira said. “Whatever causes me to have slow starts always turns around and I end up having good seasons.’’

Amalie Benjamin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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