Rangers 9, Yankees 7

Texas Rangers fans had cheered Alex Rodriguez and given him a standing ovation plenty during his three seasons as the face of the franchise. In the top of the seventh inning tonight, he got both one more time -- when he struck out looking.

He came up a final time in the top of the ninth and singled, earning a mix of cheers and boos. It was that kind of love-hate night.

The Yankees third baseman and former Rangers shortstop made his first trip to the ballpark he called home for three seasons. He tried to remain focused, but there was no doubting the circus-like atmosphere his return created.

Rodriguez only added fuel to the hype in the top of the first inning when his two-run home run gave New York a 2-0 lead. The Rangers recovered, however, and used a pair of four-run innings (the fourth and seventh) to earn a 9-7 win before 49,195 on hand to see Rodriguez's return.

"They were okay,'' Rodriguez said of the boos. "I saw a lot of positive signs and signed a lot of autographs. Not bad at all. Seattle was a lot worse [in 2001], no question.''

Rodriguez, who finished 2 for 5, signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers in December 2000. He went through a tumultuous offseason -- including lengthy talks of him being sent to Boston -- before finally getting dealt to the Yankees on Feb. 16 for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named.

"The drive in felt very familiar," Rodriguez said. "I had a lot of good memories here, and grew a lot as a person."

When he came to bat in the first inning, Rodriguez was showered with boos. He responded by sending a Joaquin Benoit offering over the wall in left as flashbulbs popped around Ameriquest Field.

One local paper printed three different back-page posters for fans, one including a play on his nickname: "A-Rat."

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter had talked to Rodriguez about the trade, and knew about the relationships he had formed.

"He enjoyed it here," Jeter said.

Rangers shortstop Michael Young, a close friend of Rodriguez's, didn't know why the Rangers were such a different team and why they've seemed to improve since he left. He didn't know if either team was better off from the trade, but said Rodriguez is happy in New York and that he was glad to have Soriano as a teammate.

"When it comes down to it, it's still the Rangers and Yankees," Young said.

Before the game, Rodriguez and Young met in the tunnel between both locker rooms, sharing a few hugs and laughs while a television camera was stuck inches away, filming every second. When Rodriguez walked into a pregame press conference, photographers and TV crews lined up.

Rodriguez didn't expect to be booed by the fans. He also said he wouldn't apologize for comments he made in an article in ESPN Magazine, in which he made reference to the Rangers consisting of him and "24 kids." He didn't blame anyone but himself for the Rangers' struggles while he was here, and said if he was a writer, he would have jumped on the comment.

He also admitted he was glad to see his former team succeeding, and said he still keeps in touch with some ex-teammates. Even though the Rangers' plans changed, and they went from spending money to cutting their payroll, Rodriguez said he was prepared to come back to Texas earlier this year.

"The people in Texas were really good to me," he said. "I met a lot of good people, but we just didn't get the W's like we wanted to."

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez gloves a pop-up off the Rangers' Laynce Nix in second inning.