ARLINGTON, Texas - Alex Rodriguez's career-long penchant for commanding the stage continued on his 40th birthday.
Rodriguez, set to celebrate the milestone with his two daughters and teammates after Monday night's game, homered in the Yankees' 6-2 victory over the Rangers in front of 33,691 at Globe Life Park.
But it wasn't entirely about A-Rod on this night, one in which the AL East-leading Yankees (56-42) moved a season-best 14 games over .500 and improved to an MLB-best 15-5 in July. They lead the Orioles and Blue Jays by seven games.
Didi Gregorius went 3-for-4 with a career-best four RBIs. Two of those came on his first career homer off a lefthander, a blast off Matt Harrison in the third. His two-run single off lefthander Sam Freeman in the seventh made it 6-2.
Chase Headley also went 3-for-4 for the Yankees, who outhit the Rangers 11-5.
After Ivan Nova (3-3) allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, Chasen Shreve struck out four in two scoreless innings. Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth and Dellin Betances finished off the Rangers (47-51) with a scoreless ninth.
With the Yankees leading 3-2 in the sixth, Rodriguez lined a 3-and-1 fastball over the rightfield fence for his 24th homer, tying Mark Teixeira for the team lead. Rodriguez joined Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players to homer at age 18 and at age 40, according to Elias. Also according to Elias, A-Rod became the oldest Yankee to homer on his birthday. Lou Piniella and Tim Raines, both 37, were the previous record-holders. The blast gave A-Rod his 59th RBI, second on the team behind Teixeira's 65.
Nova retired the first five Rangers he faced before allowing two runs with two outs in the second. Josh Hamilton singled on a first-pitch fastball and Elvis Andrus, also swinging at the first pitch, doubled into the leftfield corner to make it 1-0. Leonys Martin, who robbed Teixeira of a home run in the top of the inning, then singled for a 2-0 lead.
The Yankees took the lead for good in the third. Headley, hitting .369 (24-for-65) this month, singled and Gregorius drove a first-pitch breaking ball into the seats in right for a two-run shot that tied it at 2. Brendan Ryan followed with his second triple of the season and scored on Chris Young's sacrifice fly to left to make it 3-2.
After a 1-2-3 third, Nova escaped a jam to keep it at 3-2 in the fourth. Mitch Moreland led off with a double, and after retiring Adrian Beltre, Nova walked Hamilton and hit Andrus to load the bases. But Martin sent a bouncer to Teixeira, who threw home for the 3-2 putout. Nova got Robinson Chirinos to ground out to end the inning.
Teixeira had a rough night at the plate, through no fault of his own. Martin went over the wall in left-center to steal a homer in the second and Andrus snagged a liner to short in the fourth. Teixeira was thrown out at the plate in the eighth on Headley's single and appeared to glare at third-base coach Joe Espada on his way back to the dugout. He then threw several objects in the dugout.
In the sixth, Girardi turned things over to Shreve, who was acquired from the Braves in the Manny Banuelos deal, and the lefthander -- who came in with a 1.88 ERA in 34 appearances -- again was terrific. Shreve struck out four of the last five batters he faced, giving him 42 strikeouts in 401/3 innings this season.
Ellsbury gets a rest. It was, all insisted, a scheduled day off for Jacoby Ellsbury Monday, though his left shoulder still bears watching.
Ellsbury slammed the shoulder into the centerfield wall Sunday while chasing down a drive by the Twins' Trevor Plouffe. He stayed in the game and was seen with an ice pack on the shoulder afterward. "It was coming regardless," he said of being rested. "Regardless of whether I hit the wall or not, there would have been a day off."
"If I have to use him, I'll use him," Joe Girardi said before the game. He was inserted for defensive purposes in the eighth.