The New York Yankees are happy to have Alex Rodriguez, especially lately.
After sparking a sweep over what had been the AL's top team, Rodriguez will try to help the Yankees match their longest winning streak of the season Thursday night against the league-worst Oakland Athletics.
New York (25-22) wasn't entirely thrilled to have Rodriguez back after he sat out all of last season serving a suspension for a banned substance.
Last week, owner Hal Steinbrenner called Rodriguez "a great asset."
The 39-year-old designated hitter is 10 for 22 (.455) in the past six games, collecting six hits and scoring four runs in a three-game sweep of reigning AL champion Kansas City after the Yankees had lost 10 of 11. The Royals entered that series with the majors' best record but fell into a tie atop the AL Central while New York took over the East lead.
Rodriguez hit a three-run shot for his 11th homer of the season in Wednesday's 4-2 victory, giving him 1,995 RBIs to pass Lou Gehrig's 1,993 for the most in AL history. He's one back of Barry Bonds for second all-time, while Hark Aaron leads with 2,297 for a statistic that didn't become official until 1920.
"I haven't played a lot of baseball in the last two years, but I feel like I'm in a good place, I'm happy. I'm having fun," said Rodriguez, limited to 44 games in 2013 due to hip surgery.
"I think for me in a weird way the time off was a blessing in disguise. I was able to get some rest, change my workout regimen a little bit. I just feel like I'm in a better place and more explosive than I've been."
He has a .375 average in his last 13 meetings with the A's (17-32) but hasn't faced them since 2012.
Strong pitching also has New York in position to equal its season-high four-game win streak from April 21-24, having yielded four runs in three games against the Royals, but its starter Thursday has one of the AL's worst ERAs among qualifying pitchers.
CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47 ERA) is coming off his worst performance of the season and shortest without an injury in nine years. He was pulled with one out in a third inning in which he was charged with six of Texas' 10 runs in a 15-4 loss Saturday.
The six-time All-Star, though, had won his two previous starts on the road, where owns a 3.48 ERA in six starts compared to 11.77 at home.
Sabathia has a 6.00 ERA while losing his last two starts against the A's, both in 2013.
The Yankees have dropped seven of eight on the road and nine of 10 in Oakland, but the A's own the majors' worst home record at 6-16. They've lost six of seven at home after falling 3-2 to Detroit on Wednesday.
Oakland is turning to Kendall Graveman (2-2, 6.04) after he allowed three hits and had a season-high six strikeouts in six innings of a 5-0 win at Tampa Bay on Saturday, hours after being recalled from Triple-A Nashville.
The right-hander, who has never faced the Yankees, was on the opening-day roster but went 1-2 with an 8.27 ERA in four starts before being sent down.
"I located the fastball well, had good movement and changed speeds when I needed to, so I think that was a positive," Graveman told MLB's official website. "I felt comfortable out there."
That hasn't been the case at O.co Coliseum, as he's lost both of his starts there while surrendering 14 runs and 16 hits - three homers - in eight innings.