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Rodriguez belts No. 499

Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez celebrates with his teammates in the dugout after belting career home run No. 499 in the eighth inning at Kansas City. Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez celebrates with his teammates in the dugout after belting career home run No. 499 in the eighth inning at Kansas City. (DAVE KAUP/REUTERS)

Alex Rodriguez moved within one of the 500-home run club, helping the New York Yankees get as close to the Red Sox as they've been in 2 1/2 months.

Rodriguez hit his 499th homer, and Melky Cabrera and Hideki Matsui also went deep in a 7-1 victory over the Royals in Kansas City last night that extended the Yankees' winning streak to six.

Seeking to become the youngest player to reach 500 homers, Rodriguez connected in the eighth inning off Gil Meche. Kansas City's starter today is Jorge De La Rosa, who gave up A-Rod's 400th homer two years ago.

Rodriguez had a chance to reach 500 in the ninth inning, but as flashbulbs popped he struck out against former teammate Octavio Dotel.

A-Rod, who turns 32 tomorrow, would surpass Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days) as the youngest player to reach 500 homers. Rodriguez would be the 22d to reach the mark and the second this season behind Frank Thomas.

With its 11th win in 13 games, New York closed within 6 1/2 games of the AL East-leading Red Sox. The Yankees, who trailed by 14 1/2 games in late May, have not been this close since trailing by six games May 10. They remain 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland, the AL wild-card leader.

Mike Mussina (5-7) allowed one run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He had been 0-2 in three starts since June 29.

Rangers 7, Mariners 6 -- Ramon Vazquez hit a two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning off previously unblemished closer J.J. Putz as host Texas completed a four-game sweep of Seattle.

Putz hadn't allowed a run in 16 road appearances this season and had converted a majors-best 31 consecutive save chances since last season, including all 29 this year.

Cubs 7, Cardinals 1 -- Ted Lilly (11-4) won his seventh straight decision and Cliff Floyd and Mike Fontenot both drove in two runs as Chicago cruised past host St. Louis.

Alfonso Soriano lacked only a home run for the cycle for the Cubs, who have won nine of 12 and pulled within two games of NL Central-leading Milwaukee. Chicago's 31-15 record since June 3 is the best in the major leagues over that span.

Tigers 13, White Sox 9 -- Ryan Raburn, making an emergency start after Gary Sheffield (right shoulder injury) was scratched from the lineup, hit two homers and drove in seven runs to lift visiting Detroit.

Raburn, the Tigers' young outfielder, hit homers in the third and fourth innings and had an RBI double during Detroit's five-run fifth. He added two more runs on a single in the ninth.

Phillies 7, Nationals 5 -- Ryan Howard's two-run homer in the bottom of the 14th inning led Philadelphia to victory.

Chris Booker (0-1) walked Chase Utley top open the 14th. Howard then drove a 2-2 pitch into the second deck in right field for his 28th homer. It was his second career game-ending homer.

Blue Jays 13, Twins 1 -- Gregg Zaun homered and drove in four runs, and host Toronto tied a franchise record with an 11-run sixth inning, completing a three-game sweep of Minnesota.

Toronto (51-50) has won a season-high five straight to move over .500 for the first time since June 27, when it was 39-38. Minnesota (51-50) lost its fourth straight, matching a season worst.

Orioles 6, Devil Rays 1 -- Erik Bedard (10-4) allowed one run in six innings to earn his sixth straight victory as Baltimore extended visiting Tampa Bay's losing streak to five.

Angels 7, Athletics 6 -- Maicer Izturis hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth after Francisco Rodriguez blew a three-run lead in the top half as Los Angeles avoided a three-game sweep.

Giants 2, Braves 1 -- Rich Aurilia hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning for host San Francisco and Noah Lowry (11-7) held Atlanta scoreless after a first-inning run.

Rockies 10, Padres 2 -- Matt Holliday tied a career-high with four hits, including a home run and two doubles, and Aaron Cook pitched his second complete game of the season to power host Colorado.

Reds 7, Brewers 3 -- Jeff Keppinger's bases-loaded double highlighted a two-out scoring spree that powered Cincinnati past visiting Milwaukee.

Astros 2, Dodgers 1 -- Carlos Lee hit a solo home run in the seventh inning and Brad Lidge pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in eight chances to lift host Houston.

Diamondbacks 7, Marlins 0 -- Brandon Webb (9-8) threw seven shutout innings for his first win in nearly a month as host Arizona won its fifth straight and moved within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Dodgers in the NL West.

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