ATLANTA -- The Yankees' offense and CC Sabathia struggled for the first seven innings against the Braves on Tuesday night. But the way the Bronx Bombers came back for a 6-4 victory at Turner Field was quick and stunning.With his bullpen depleted, manager Joe Girardi needed the ace left-hander to pitch deep into the game. Sabathia did just that, but not without some tense moments before Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher turned a four-run deficit into a satisfying win during a six-run eighth inning against three Atlanta pitchers. It was the Yankees' fifth win in a row and their 10th in a span of 12 games, leaving them alone in first place in the American League East at 36-25, the best record in the AL. "What a game, right?" Swisher said euphorically. "I mean, what a game. It just goes to show you that you have to play all 27 outs. We're the type of team that's very resilient. We don't back down from any challenge. I feel like we have the players to do things like that. " Rodriguez hit his 23rd career grand slam with one out in the eighth inning off Braves left-handed reliever Jonny Venters, tying legendary Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig atop the all-time list. Rodriguez's 10th homer of the season and 639th lifetime knotted the score at 4. Robinson Cano followed with a single, chasing Venters, and moments later against righty Cory Gearrin, Swisher launched a two-run shot, also his 10th, to give the Yankees a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Rodriguez said that when he hit it, he was sure it would at least be a double, but he wasn't sure the shot would be his first slam of the season until the line drive nestled in the possession of Randy Kearns, a 15-year-old fan who caught the ball in the first row of the left-field stands.
"I hit a ball similar to it [on Monday], so I knew it was at least a double," A-Rod said. "When it carried off, I was really happy."Sabathia wasn't sharp during his seven innings, throwing 109 pitches to earn his eighth win in 11 decisions. Rafael Soriano overcame a blister on the index finger of his right hand and retired all three Braves he faced in the ninth for his 10th save in 11 opportunities. It was the 100th save of Soriano's career, and the right-hander laughed when told that he's just 508 behind the injured Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader whom Soriano replaced in the closer role. Rivera underwent surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee earlier on Tuesday and isn't expected back until next year. "I've got a long way to go to pass Mo," said Soriano, who still had a bandage around the tip of his injured finger after the game. "They put medicine on it [Monday], and it felt fine today. So we're doing the same thing." Girardi had taxed the 'pen during Monday's 3-0 win, using four relievers in the final two innings behind Ivan Nova. The bullpen was short, Girardi admitted. Only veteran Freddy Garcia and rookie David Phelps were available for any long work. Clay Rapada pitched for the fourth consecutive game and faced four batters without much incident after the heroics in the eighth. Sabathia had thrown 59 pitches through the first batter of the fourth inning before he settled down, retiring 10 of 11 hitters through the first out of the seventh inning. Ultimately, he walked two, allowed 10 hits -- including five doubles -- whiffed six and toughed it out long enough to give himself and the Yankees a chance to come back with their inspiring win. "I was just all over the place, not being able to command anything -- my curveball, cutter or fastball," Sabathia said. "My changeup was pretty good, but I couldn't get in any counts where I could throw it. You know, it's got to be better next time." Meanwhile, the Yankees could mount little offense against Braves starter Mike Minor, who allowed just three singles, a double and no runs through the first seven innings. After Russell Martin flied out hard to right to open the eighth, the deluge began. Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson singled, Mark Teixeira walked, A-Rod hit the grand slam, Cano singled and Swisher homered. Seven batters, six runs. Just like that. Another all-time record tied. Another legend matched. "It's hard to fathom what he's done in his career," Girardi said about A-Rod. "To be mentioned with Lou Gehrig is pretty special. It changes pretty quickly. It really does. You get a big hit like that, and you start to smell a rally."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.