A-Rod homers as Mussina pitches Yanks to .500

TORONTO (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez and Mike Mussina were happy to be heading home, especially after a win.

Rodriguez homered in his third straight game and Mussina made another sharp start, leading the New York Yankees over the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 on Wednesday.

New York is 7-7 after playing 11 of 14 on the road. The Yankees host Baltimore on Friday night in the start of nine-game homestand.

"We would love be 9-5 or something like that," Rodriguez said. "But we've been on the road for basically 14 days. We're very excited to get home."

Rodriguez said the road start was OK given that the Yankees traveled to Oakland, the Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota and Toronto -- all possible postseason contenders.

"There's probably eight or nine teams that are legitimate World Series contenders in the American League, and that's very unique because you probably haven't had that in over 20 years," Rodriguez said. "There is great parity in the American League. There are probably three teams in each division that can potentially win the World Series."

Rodriguez homered in the fifth, tying Juan Gonzalez for 35th place with his 434th homer. A-Rod is hitting .462 (12-for-26) in New York's wins and .148 (4-for-27) in its losses.

He arrived early before the game to work on his swing.

"I'm getting more comfortable," he said.

Mussina (2-1) struck out a season-high seven in 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits. He lowered his ERA to 2.67.

"It was a masterpiece," New York manager Joe Torre said. "He's as good as we've seen him early in the year."

Kyle Farnsworth got the last two outs of the eighth and Mariano Rivera, bouncing back from Saturday's loss in Minnesota, pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.

"That's the way you draw it up," Mussina said.

Mussina knows his team is counting on him and Randy Johnson to
have starts like this despite their ages. Johnson is 42 and Mussina is 37.

"We're the old the guys, and everybody keeps reminding us," Mussina said. "If the two of us can do what we've been doing for the last 16 or 18 years, than that's great."

Toronto manager John Gibbons said it was just Mussina's day.

"When he's on, he keeps you off-balance. He picked the plate apart," Gibbons said.

Former Yankee Ted Lilly (1-1) gave up two runs, seven hits and five walks in five innings.

After Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada singled in the fifth, Robinson Cano hit a liner to left fielder Reed Johnson. Johnson threw to third baseman Troy Glaus, who tried to tag out Posada in a rundown between second and third for the third out. But before
Glaus could tag Posada, Matsui touched home plate for a 2-0 lead.

Gibbons ran out to argue that Matsui didn't touch the plate before Posada was tagged.

Russ Adams and Frank Catalanotto hit consecutive singles in the sixth, and Vernon Wells singled in a run as Toronto closed to 2-1. Posada had an RBI single off Scott Schoeneweis in the seventh.

Game notes
New York right-hander Carl Pavano (bruised buttocks) threw 58 pitches during his second bullpen session in three days. Pavano said he is "making progress" and didn't rule out throwing batting practice in the next few days. The Yankees think Pavano could rejoin the rotation before the end of May. ... Yankees right-hander Aaron Small (hamstring) had a 62-pitch mound session and is scheduled for his third extended spring training start Saturday. He is on target to rejoin the Yankees late this month or in early May.