NEW YORK — Before the season began, beleaguered slugger Alex Rodriguez thought the days of being adored by Yankees fans were over.
Returning to New York's lineup after sitting out a yearlong suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal, Rodriguez has restored his star status with a big bat.
Having already surpassed the milestones of his 660th home run and 3,000th hit this year, Rodriguez connected for a slump-busting grand slam in the seventh inning Tuesday night as the Yankees rallied from a three-run deficit against a depleted Minnesota bullpen to beat the Twins 8-4.
"I thought those days were long gone," Rodriguez said. "A grand slam feels pretty awesome and especially to do it late and to help us win a game."
A-Rod extended his major league record for grand slams, hitting the 25th of his career into the Yankees bullpen off J.R. Graham (0-1) to put New York up 5-4.
With a 1-0 count, Rodriguez connected on a 95 mph fastball, snapping an 0-for-18 slump and earning a curtain call from the crowd of 38,007.
Rookie Miguel Sano homered for the second consecutive game, a two-run shot off CC Sabathia, and Shane Robinson had an RBI single against Nick Rumbelow (1-0) in the seventh to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead.
The win was Rumbelow's first major league decision.
"It's always the way you want it when your team ends up winning," Rumbelow said with a smile.
Andrew Miller got four outs for his 27th save.
Pinch-hitter Chase Headley singled off left-hander Ryan O'Rourke to begin New York's rally leading off the bottom of the seventh. Brendan Ryan walked and, after Jacoby Ellsbury flew out to right, Brett Gardner walked to load the bases.
"I had who I had," Molitor said. "It's not easy. Sometimes, the guys got to get out of their roles. You hope they can step up, and tonight, they just weren't able to do it."
Rookie Greg Bird added his first major league RBI for New York.
"I thought he threw a good game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It seemed like the sixth and seventh, the innings started to get a little harder for him as his pitch count started to mount but I thought he pitched a really good game."
"If you look at the first four innings, I thought it was vintage, old CC," Rodriguez added.
The Twins chased Sabathia with three runs in the top of the seventh.
Sabathia pitched 6 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and five hits, striking out five and walking three.
Mike Pelfrey worked into the sixth inning for the Twins, allowing five hits and one run. He walked one and struck out four.
Headley had a two-run double and Ellsbury had an RBI single in the eighth.
Twins: After the game, manager Paul Molitor indicated that closer Glenn Perkins is being sent back to Minnesota because of back problems and will have an MRI on Wednesday.
Yankees: After initial X-rays were negative, first baseman Mark Teixeira (right shin) had further testing after he fouled a ball of off his leg on Monday. Those tests also came back negative and Girardi did not believe a trip to the disabled list was warranted. "He was still really sore today," Girardi said. "I was concerned when he did it, right away, because of where it hit, there's no padding when you hit it off your shin, I mean, that's straight bone."
Twins: Ervin Santana (2-3, 5.66 ERA) will make his 17th career start against the Yankees in the series finale. He has not defeated the Yankees since August 1, 2008, a span of 10 starts, and is 5-8 with a 6.34 ERA overall against them.
Yankees: Nathan Eovaldi (12-2, 4.26 ERA) faces the Twins for the second time in his career, looking to extend his seven-decision winning streak. He defeated the Twins on July 26, giving up two runs and striking out five, in his eight innings of work.
Rodriguez' home run was his 25th of the year, marking the 15th season he's at least reached the total. Rodriguez becomes the sixth player to achieve that feat, joining Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Frank Robinson.