BALTIMORE — As Alex Rodriguez moves up the charts in several impressive categories, he has come to accept his place among baseball’s greatest players. Rodriguez hit a milestone grand slam and drove in six runs, CC Sabathia earned his first win of the season and the New York Yankees pounded the Baltimore Orioles15-3 on Saturday night.

Rodriguez connected with the bases full against Josh Rupe in a seven-run eighth inning. It was his 22nd career slam, pushing him past Manny Ramirez into second place on the career list behind only Lou Gehrig (23). ”It’s definitely exciting. I appreciate the moment,” Rodriguez said. “I think I’ve grown and matured to a level now where I can appreciate it some and not just brush it off like I did in the past.”

The six RBIs also lifted Rodriguez past Carl Yastrzemski into 10th place on the career RBIs list (1,847), according to Elias Sports Bureau. ”Without question, I’m going to appreciate [the accomplishments] a lot more once I’m done playing,” he said. “But overall, I played with a lot of great players. Numbers like RBIs and wins and championships, you need 25 guys, 24 other guys helping you.”

A-Rod had plenty of help in this blowout. Russell Martin homered twice, and Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner also connected for the Yankees, who lead the majors with 35 home runs. Sabathia (1-1) allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking one. The performance came one night after his scheduled start was postponed by a rainout.

“Maybe that extra day did help him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I saw him [Friday] and he looked OK, but you know he had a low-grade fever and wasn’t feeling great.”

Sabathia came in with a 2.52 ERA, but was winless after four starts for only the third time in his career. The left-hander’s elusive first victory of the year came against a team he has dominated for years. In 21 starts against Baltimore, he’s 15-2 with a 2.89 ERA. What’s up with that? ”I have no idea because the lineup is always different,” Sabathia said. “It’s just one of those things, one of those parks.”

But the story was Rodriguez, whose ability to repeatedly come up with a clutch hit is probably no accident. ”It credits the amount of work he’s been able to do, and how gifted and talented he is when you get guys on,” teammate Curtis Granderson said. “The guy never cracks and just takes advantage of all the opportunities.”

Adam Jones homered for the Orioles, who have lost 27 of their past 34 games against New York. Brad Bergesen (0-3) gave up six runs and eight hits in six innings. He’s 0-3 with a 7.29 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees. ”It’s a great hitting lineup, and a couple pitches really hurt me,” Bergesen said. “This lineup, you’re not going to get away with a whole lot and it was evident tonight.”

 

Four of the first five New York batters reached base in a three-run first inning. After Derek Jeter singled and took third on Mark Teixeira’s double, Rodriguez hit a two-run double and Robinson Cano capped the uprising with an RBI single. After one turn through the lineup, the Yankees produced three runs on five hits. Baltimore, in contrast, went 0-for-9 with three strikeouts. Sabathia retired the first 11 batters before Derrek Lee singled with two outs in the fourth.

Bergesen rebounded from his shaky start to pitch well through the fifth inning, but in the sixth he gave up a single to Cano and walked Nick Swisher before Martin homered.

Jones hit a three-run drive in the seventh, but New York pulled away in the eighth against three Baltimore relievers. Posada hit a two-run shot off Jason Berken and Martin immediately followed with his sixth home run of the season. Then, after the Yankees loaded the bases against Jeremy Accardo, Rodriguez hit a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats.

Before that outburst, New York was the only team in the majors that had not scored at least four runs in an inning. After Rupe hit Martin in the back with a pitch in the ninth, Gardner hit his first homer of the season.

Rupe said the brushback pitch was completely accidental. ”I had no intent to hit him. I looked at the video and it didn’t look good,” the pitcher said. “But there’s no way that I would intentionally go at somebody’s head or go way up there. I know how to hit a guy when the situation calls for it and that wasn’t it. No, I wouldn’t do it.”

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