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Alex Rodriguez became the first player with 35 homers and 100 RBIs in 12 seasons – one more than Babe Ruth – and the New York Yankees slowed the Chicago White Sox’s pursuit of the AL Central crown with a 5-1 victory Wednesday night.

Johnny Damon hit a two-run homer, Robinson Cano had three hits and Xavier Nady had a tying RBI single in the seventh inning. Nady then scored on a wild pitch as New York rallied against rookie Clayton Richard in the fifth to last regular-season game at Yankee Stadium.

Jermaine Dye had an RBI groundout off Phil Hughes, who was making his first start since April 29. That was all the White Sox could muster against Hughes and four relievers, who threw five shutout innings. The White Sox entered the night with a 2 1/2 game lead over Minnesota.

With his homer in the eighth inning, A-Rod became the first player to have at least 35 in 11 straight seasons (1998-2008), snapping a tie with Sammy Sosa (1995-2004). Rodriguez has 101 RBIs this season.

Ruth had at least 35 homers and 100 RBIs for the Yankees 11 times in the 1920s and 30s.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he would keep Richard, who came in 2-4 with a 6.94 ERA, on a very short leash, and the 25-year-old rookie Richard earned every inning.

He induced double-play grounders in the first, after a leadoff walk, and in the third, after a leadoff single, and struck out Derek Jeter in the fifth after giving up two singles to start the inning.

But Guillen left him in a batter too long. After a visit to the mound that left Richard with a big smile, the rookie gave up a tying single to Nady. Cano followed with a double down the right-field line to end the rookie’s night.

Mike MacDougal relieved and threw a wild pitch that allowed Nady to score and give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

Johnny Damon hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Scott Linebrink and Rodriguez lined his 553rd homer to right two batters later for a 5-1 lead.

Hughes’ return to the mound was cut short after just four innings. Considered a future ace by the Yankees, Hughes earned a spot on the staff out of spring training. But he went 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA before sustaining a stress fracture in a rib, and he hadn’t pitched since April 29. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to see him show better command of his fastball Wednesday.

Wearing glasses instead of contacts and No. 65 – his old number – instead of 34, which he wore to start this season, Hughes needed 33 pitches to get out of the first inning. He threw 89 pitches – 57 strikes – overall. The 22-year-old right-hander gave up a run and four hits and two walks. He struck out four.

The Yankees bullpen pitched five scoreless innings in relief. Phil Coke pitched two-plus innings, Brian Bruney came on with a runner on second in the seventh and got three straight outs. Joba Chamberlain worked the eighth before Edwar Ramirez got the final three outs.

Notes:@ White Sox left-fielder Carlos Quentin had the soft cast removed from his broken right wrist, and began range of motion exercises. He is scheduled to join the team in Kansas City on Friday, where he will swing a bat. … A-Rod had struck out in five of his previous 10 at-bats before the home run.

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