KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It didn't look like much, just a single up the middle.
The run-scoring single made Rodriguez the first player to reach 100 RBIs this season and the first player to reach the milestone in fewer than 100 team games since Manny Ramirez in 1999.
The last time anyone in a Yankees uniform did it? That would be 1937. Couple of guys named Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.
Rodriguez's reaction was pretty much the same as Roger Clemens' take on earning his 351st career victory: The only numbers that matter are wins.
"I've never even thought about it," Rodriguez said. "We're in such a grind with what we're trying to do as a team that anything personal never comes up."
Rodriguez has 11 100-RBI seasons, including 10 in a row. Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx share the record of consecutive 100-RBI seasons with 13 each. On Monday, A-Rod was 1-for-3 with two walks. His RBI single off Ryan Braun ignited a five-run ninth.
Clemens (3-4) gave up two runs and four hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out three to raise his total to 4,641, second to Nolan Ryan on the career list. The Rocket improved to 6-0 against Kansas City in seven starts with the Yankees, and 25-12 versus the Royals overall.
The Rocket, who lowered his ERA to 3.72, had been 0-1 with two no-decisions since beating Minnesota on July 2. He allowed a run-scoring wild pitch in the fourth and Ross Gload's homer in the seventh.
Getting staked to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings helped.
"That was great," he said. "The guys jumped out there, and from that point you just go out there and throw strikes and try to stay away from walking anybody."
Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and Jorge Posada drove in two runs each for the Yankees, who have won nine of 11 and pulled within 5½ games of Cleveland, the AL wild-card leader. New York (52-46), which remained 7½ back of Boston in the AL East, moved six games over .500 for the first time this season.
"We'd still like to make some noise in our division, get a little closer to where we want to be," manager Joe Torre said. "You know when I start talking about wild cards I get chewed out."
On a night for fathers, Yankees first base coach Tony Pena -- a former Royals manager -- watched his son play in the major leagues for the first time. Tony Pena Jr. started at shortstop for the Royals and went 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch.
"He just told me to go out and have fun and not to do anything different than I've been doing," the younger Pena said.
That was calm advice from a nervous man.
"I don't know if he was nervous or not, but I was," the Yankees' coach said. "But we are professionals, and he understands that I love him and I want him to do well. But once you go across the two white lines, you have to separate the family and the friendship from the game."
St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, father of Yankees rookie Shelley Duncan, also watched his son play in the big leagues for the first time. Shelley Duncan made his major league debut Friday, homered Saturday against Tampa Bay, then hit two more Sunday. In the starting lineup at designated hitter as the Yankees rested Bobby Abreu and shifted Damon to center, Duncan was 1-for-5 against the Royals.
"I just went about it like it was a normal game," Shelley Duncan said. "I had to do my job, stay focused and get some good at-bats. I'm sure I'll see him at the hotel later and see what he thought."
A first-inning single took off a bit of the pressure.
"It did make me feel relief that he did get to see me get a hit," Shelley Duncan said.
His brother, Chris Duncan, an outfielder with the Cardinals, also was at the game as St. Louis had the night off.
Kansas City's Odalis Perez (5-9) gave up four run, eight hits and three walks in seven innings.
After reaching 20 hits in consecutive games for the first time in a century against the Devil Rays over the weekend, the Yankees had 13 more. New York has 47 runs in its last three games.
Matsui, who has 19 RBI in July, hit a two-run, two-out single in the first, and Damon made it 4-0 with a two-run double in the second.
Mark Grudzielanek doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth. After Gload's one-out homer in the seventh, Emil Brown reached on a two-out strikeout that got away from catcher Jorge Posada for a wild pitch, but Clemens struck out John Buck to end the inning. Buck's bat flew into the stands on the third base side, about eight rows up, but no one was injured.
The slow-footed Posada hit the eighth triple of his 13-season career in the fifth inning, his first since 2006.
- New York had at least one batter reach base in every inning.
- The Royals have been hit by pitch 58 times this season, most in the majors.
- Yankees RHP Scott Proctor went home to Florida to be with his wife and new son, Cooper, who was born Monday. Manager Joe Torre said Proctor will rejoin the team Wednesday.