KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Alex Rodriguez believes his third 50-homer season is a lot more meaningful than the first two. This time around, he's playing for a team in a pennant race.
A-Rod homered in consecutive at-bats against rookie Brian Bannister to set a single-season record for a third baseman, helping the New York Yankees overpower the Kansas City Royals 11-5 on Saturday night.
"It's special," Rodriguez said. "When I did it in Texas it was a little different scenario. To be doing it and winning games in the middle of a pennant race means that much more."
Rodriguez just missed homering in three straight at-bats, flying out to the center field wall in his second at-bat during the Yankees' seven-run sixth inning. He was hit by a pitch from rookie Luke Hochevar in the seventh before coming out for a pinch runner.
"I know he's my player, but it's hard to believe any player's numbers can hold up to what he's doing," said manager Joe Torre. "The bad side of this thing is when he does it so often, you're surprised when he doesn't do it.
"But I still marvel, we all do. It's an honor to watch this stuff."
Rodriguez became the first Yankees player to reach 50 homers in a season since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle did it in 1961. A-Rod joined Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as the only players in history to hit 50 homers in at least three different seasons.
"I said last night it's been a pretty magical season so far," Rodriguez said. "I'm having a lot of fun. I came up with a good approach in spring training and I've kind of stuck with that all year."
Andy Pettitte (13-8) pitched into the seventh and Johnny Damon and Wilson Betemit also homered for New York, which has won four in a row and is a major league-best 37-19 since the All-Star break. The Yankees have dominated the Royals, going 8-1 this year and 18-3 since 2005.
The Yankees, who remained three games ahead of Detroit in the wild-card race, are a season-best 18 games above .500 and moved within 5½ games of AL East-leading Boston.
Emil Brown had a two-run double and Billy Butler doubled twice for the Royals, who have lost four straight. The first three had been one-run decisions, including a 3-2 setback to the Yankees in the opener of the three-game series on Friday.
Bannister (12-8) surrendered three homers after giving up only one in his previous eight starts. The right-hander, who had won four straight starts and had been 7-1 in his previous nine outings, allowed a season-high seven runs in five-plus innings.
"I wasn't disappointed with the home runs because that's what great players do," Bannister said. "Damon surprised me a little bit but A-Rod, you expect him to take swings like that."
Rodriguez leads the majors by a wide margin in homers and RBI (138), and his 49 homers as the third baseman broke the previous major league record by Mike Schmidt of the Phillies (1980) and Seattle's Adrian Beltre, who hit 48 with the Dodgers in 2004.
Rodriguez, who has hit two homers as a designated hitter, added to his team record for homers for a right-handed batter and surpassed the 50-homer plateau for the first time since hitting 57 with Texas in 2002. He hit 52 with the Rangers in 2001.
Bannister was victimized on 3-1 counts in the fourth and sixth innings. A-Rod's first homer was a towering two-run shot to straightaway center, a drive estimated at 416 feet, and the second a liner over the left-field fence to lead off the inning.
Rodriguez, who homered twice in an inning on Wednesday, has eight homers in the last 10 games, and has eight multihomer games this season and 52 for his career.
The 514th and 515th homers of Rodriguez's career came one day after he passed Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 17th on the career list, connecting off Gil Meche. Next up are Willie McCovey and Ted Williams with 521 home runs.
Pettitte allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and a walk, topping 2,500 career innings in the process, with the only damage coming on Brown's two-run double in the fourth. Pettitte has won seven of his last eight starts overall and is 6-0 in his last eight games against the Royals.
"I got a little tired in that last inning. I fatigued for the first time in a while," he said. "I've been going pretty hard and I know I hit a little bit of a wall."
Pettitte has 199 career wins and his 162 wins with the Yankees are tied with Herb Pennock for seventh on the franchise list.
Damon, who had been in a 2-for-28 slump, hit a two-run homer in the third for the first runs of the game. Betemit, who got a spot start, was 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in the sixth.
Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, worked the last three innings in his major league debut, allowing no runs and three hits with a walk and a hit batter.
"I was jumping out of my skin," he said.
- Yankees SS Derek Jeter was removed due to right knee stiffness in the bottom of the fifth. Torre said Jeter, who has patella tendinitis, will get a day off on Sunday and might not play much on artificial turf in a three-game series in Toronto that starts on Tuesday. "He couldn't move very well, that's as simple as I can put it," Torre said.
- Rodriguez has five homers this year against the Royals. His 52nd homer will tie Mantle for third-best on the franchise single-season list.
- Bannister gave up three homers for the second time this season, and first since July 16 at Boston.
- Pettitte is 9-2 in 12 starts since the All-Star break and 11-3 with a 3.15 ERA for his career against the Royals.