Alex Rodriguez broke out of a slump with a historic grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning that lifted the New York Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the opener of a three-game series.
Rodriguez's blast off reliever George Kontos was the 24th grand slam of his decorated career, surpassing Lou Gehrig for the most by any player in major league history. The homer came with the score tied at 1-1 in a contest the Yankees, who entered the day 3 1/2 games behind in the AL wild card standings, essentially needed to win to remain a contender in the race.
"You've got to think of just one game at a time," said Rodriguez. "But hopefully this ended the streak and we can get something rolling from here."
Alfonso Soriano added a solo homer as part of a 2-for-3 night, while CC Sabathia (14-13) did his part on the mound by tossing seven strong innings of one-run ball in which he scattered seven hits.
Kontos entered after New York had loaded the bases with two out against Tim Lincecum (10-14), who wound up charged with four runs over 6 2/3 innings and had a five-start unbeaten streak (4-0) snapped.
Juan Perez went 2-for-4 and knocked in San Francisco's lone run with a third- inning double. The Giants had won five of six coming in.
Mired in a 1-for-25 skid, Rodriguez stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the game tied at 1-1 in the seventh. After taking two pitches for a ball and swinging through another, the embattled third baseman got a hold of a Kontos fastball and launched it into the bleachers in right-center field for the most pivotal hit of the game.
"I'm not thinking home run right there," said Rodriguez. "I'm actually thinking of putting a good swing on the ball and not try to do too much."
Lincecum set the stage for Rodriguez' milestone slam by permitting a leadoff single to Eduardo Nunez, then hitting Brendan Ryan with a pitch two batters later before walking Ichiro Suzuki with two out on his final offering.
"I let them get some men on cheaply out there and that's on me," said Lincecum. "It was tough to watch, I put the team in a bad situation."
Save for Soriano's leadoff homer to right that gave his team a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning, the Yankees had mustered little against Lincecum until the seventh. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner yielded just three singles over the next three frames, then walked Soriano in the sixth but left him stranded.
Sabathia was equally good for New York. He got Buster Posey to bounce into a double play with runners on the corners to end the first, and was touched for his lone run when Perez drilled a double to left center in the third that plated Brandon Crawford, who had drawn a walk to begin the inning.
The Yankee left-hander proceeded to retire 13 of the next 16 batters before surrendering a pinch-hit single to Tony Abreu to begin the eighth. David Robertson came on in relief of Sabathia and promptly induced a double-play grounder from Perez.
Mariano Rivera, beginning his final homestand on the same day longtime teammate Andy Pettitte announced his retirement at season's end, closed things out with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Soriano reached the 100-RBI mark for the fourth time in his career and now has a seven-game hitting streak ... Lincecum recorded his 1,500th career strikeout by fanning Curtis Granderson in the second inning. He's the seventh pitcher in Giants history to reach the mark and first since Gaylord Perry in 1971 ... Lincecum fell to 1-6 in nine interleague starts over the past two seasons ... The teams were meeting for the first time since 2007, with San Francisco making its first-ever visit to the new Yankee Stadium ... The Yankees are now 19-5 in an opponent's inaugural game in their home park.