By HOWIE RUMBERG. AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) _ Alex Rodriguez hit his 630th home run and tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the career list and Hiroki Kuroda pitched excellently in his pinstripes debut as the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Angels 5-0 Friday in their 110th home opener.
Nick Swisher lined a three-run double off Ervin Santana (0-2) in the first inning soon after recently retired teammate Jorge Posada threw out the ceremonial first pitch and hugged all his old pals.
Curtis Granderson added a Yankee Stadium-friendly homer. New York has won four in a row overall and 14 of its last 15 home openers.
Albert Pujols singled in four at-bats. The slumping Angels slugger is 6 for 27 (.222) with no home runs this season. Los Angeles has lost three straight.
Rodriguez came in hitting just .174 (4 for 23) without a homer or RBI in the first six games, but got three hits.
Rodriguez singled in the first and lined the first pitch of the third into the netting over monument park in straightaway center field, tying him with Griffey, his former teammate in Seattle.
Rodriguez trails Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660) on the career list.
Kuroda (1-1) gave up five hits and left after Bobby Abreu’s infield single that led off the ninth. He struck out six and walked two.
In his first start since leaving the Dodgers, Kuroda struggled for New York, allowing six runs– four earned –at Tampa Bay.
Despite saying he would have butterflies in his initial start at home, Kuroda worked through the Angels’ lineup and didn’t allow a runner to reach second until the fifth inning. He twice induced double-play grounders to wipe out singles.
Kuroda received an ovation from the 49,386 fans as he walked off the field. It was the first time he had pitched into the ninth inning in a year.
Pujols grounded into a double play in the ninth against David Robertson, who got the final three outs.
Making his first visit to the new ballpark in the Bronx, the three-time NL MVP said hours before the first pitch: “No disrespecting the history of this organization, the Yankees, but I take it like every other park. … At the end, it’s just a game.”
Unfortunately, this game has been too much like the rest for the Angels early this season. Los Angeles has lost five of six and is 2-5.
Pujols struck out looking at a 77 mph curveball in his third time up against Kuroda, his fellow former National Leaguer. Pujols dropped the bat to his side in frustration and turned to briefly question home plate umpire Mike DiMuro’s call.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi flipped his Nos. 3 and 4 batters in the order to separate Granderson and Robinson Cano, two lefties.
Girardi said the Yankees will use this lineup against right-handers, when Granderson bats second instead of the switch-hitting Swisher, who drops to sixth.
Swisher was in the right spot Friday, coming to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the first. A-Rod singled and stole second, Cano and Mark Teixeira walked and Swisher hit a drive that one-hoped the wall in center field.
Swisher’s previous at-bat was a big one, too. He crushed a two-run homer in the 10th inning Wednesday to help the Yankees win 6-4 in Baltimore.
Santana gave up five earned runs for a second straight start. He walked three and struck out five in six innings of his 13th career start against New York.
NOTES: It’s only the second time in history the Yankees have won four straight after losing their first three games of the season, according to STATS LLC. The other year was 1985. … Angels RHP David Carpenter was called up from Triple-A before the game and pitched one scoreless inning in his major league debut. … Angels reliever Scott Downs has a bruised right foot but doesn’t need to go on the DL. He was stepped on during a play at first base against the Twins Thursday and left the ballpark on crutches. General manager Jerry Dipoto said Downs was day to day. … The Angels dropped to a major league worst 12-31 on games played on Friday the 13th.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)