It was the 10th home run for each of them, and it was Rodriguez's first grand slam of the season and the 23rd of his career, tying Lou Gehrig's career grand slam record.
"I almost felt like it was a swing for the team," said Rodriguez, who was awed to have his name with Gehrig's
They made a winner out of CC Sabathia (8-3), who had thrown at least 100 pitches in each of his last 20 regular-season starts, pitching seven full innings in each of his last four starts. Tuesday was just the fifth start (of his 13 this season) that he made on four days' rest, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi needed innings from him to give his bullpen a break. Sabathia gave him that, but he left after seven innings with the Braves up 4-0.
The late-inning pyrotechnics spoiled the performance of Braves left-hander Mike Minor, who turned in one of his best efforts of the season, shutting out the Yankees into the eighth inning, allowing only five hits, no more than one in any inning.
Sabathia allowed 10 hits, but after the Braves' three-hit, three-run first, the other hits were scattered, and the Braves didn't threaten until the seventh. Sabathia, at 87 pitches by then, got Michael Bourn to strike out, but gave up a stinging single to Martin Prado and a double to center to Brian McCann. Dan Uggla was walked intentionally to load the bases for Jason Heyward, who had replaced Matt Diaz on defense in the top of the seventh. Heyward, batting .194 against left-handers, drove in the Braves' fourth run on a ground-out.
"These are games, if you don't have the mental toughness that C.C. had, you give up seven, eight or nine runs and you're not around for the decision," Girardi said.
Minor, who knows he's pitching for his spot in the rotation every time he's on the mound, had gone deeper than six full innings only twice in his previous 11 starts, and a total like the 100 pitches he threw through 7 1/2 innings Tuesday had been taking him only into the fifth inning in previous games. So manager Fredi Gonzalez had a quick hook when he gave up a single to Derek Jeter after one out in the eighth.
The move backfired in a big way. Gonzalez brought in left-hander Jonny Venters (3-3), who has only recently righted himself after two ragged months. He pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts in Monday's 3-0 loss to the Yankees, but 24 hours later, his pitches were fat, and Tuesday's game blew up in his -- and Gonzalez's -- face.
"I have no excuses," Venters said. "I threw a pitch right down the middle, 3-2, to one of the best hitters in the game."
Venters yielded the homer to Rodriguez with the bases loaded, and, after Robinson Cano singled off Venters, Cory Gearrin came in and gave up the two-run blast to Swisher.
Diaz got the start in right field Tuesday because Gonzalez couldn't ignore his 5-for-9 career numbers against Sabathia. Never mind that he had no extra-base hits and no RBIs.
Chipper Jones had feigned horror when he saw the line-up with Diaz hitting in front of him.
"My career is officially over," he quipped.
But Diaz delivered a double to right with the bases loaded in the first inning, giving the Braves a quick 3-0 lead.
Minor, the only left-hander in the Braves' rotation, gave up a lead-off single to Jeter in the first and walked Mark Teixeira one batter later, but he retired Rodriguez and Cano on balls that didn't leave the infield.
After that, Minor sailed into the sixth inning, giving up only two other hits and no more walks.
"I think it was a tough one for all of us," Gonzalez said, "including myself. They've got a good club. They took an opportunity and they beat us."