YANKEES 10, ROYALS 4
Once again the Yankees witnessed a starting pitcher who failed to get past the third inning and surrendered seven runs. But this time it wasn’t a Yankee starter.
Phil Hughes pitched into the seventh inning and New York pounded Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar for six runs in the third inning – punctuated by a grand-slam home run from Robinson Cano – as the Yankees salvaged a split of a four-game road series on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO.
Hughes (2-4) gave up three runs on six hits and one walk and struck seven in 6 2/3 innings in an effort that may yet keep him in the starting rotation.
Hochevar (2-3), a former No. 1 draft pick in 2006, gave up seven runs on seven hits and one walk and he lasted only 2 1/3 innings.
The Yankees, who have been struggling to score runs for the past six games, broke out in a big way in the third inning with the score knotted at 1-1.
Dewayne Wise, making only his second start for the Yankees, opened the frame with a single and Derek Jeter followed it up with a bunt single. Curtis Granderson then smacked an RBI single into right-field to score Wise and it gave the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish the rest of the afternoon.
Hochevar then compounded his problems by hitting Alex Rodriguez on the left elbow with a pitch, which loaded the bases and Cano made him pay for it dearly.
Cano, who entered the game with an uncharacteristic .255 average with a home run and four RBIs, doubled his home run and RBI total by walloping a 2-1 change-up into the pavilion deep in right-center.
One out later, Nick Swisher, who was returning to the lineup for the first time since he left a game on April 29 with a strained left hamstring, blasted a 1-2 Hochevar fastball deep in the bleachers down the right-field line. Hochevar’s day was done and the Royals were left stunned looking up out of an early 7-1 hole.
The Royals rallied to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings but Rodriguez put the game out of reach for good with a three-run blast of his own in the eighth inning off Royals reliever Tommy Hottovy.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 15-13. The Royals dropped to 9-18.
- It was good to see Hughes pitch a solid game and command his fastball to earn seven strikeouts. Pitch count is still an issue because Hughes threw 20 or more pitches in three of the first four innings. But Hughes did retire 14 of the 18 batters he faced after getting the 7-1 lead as he started the bottom of the third inning. This outing is something Hughes can build upon.
- Cano was 2-for-5 and his home run was the key blow of the game. Yankee fans had to scratching their heads wondering what was going on with one of the best pure hitters in the game struggling with only one home run and four RBIs on May 6. It is hard to say if the slump is over but Cano’s bat is very important to the offense and the team’s overall success.
- Rodriguez’s home run was his fifth of the season and his first since April 27 in a game against the Tigers. His three RBIs were his first RBIs since April 29 in a game also against the Tigers. The Yankees have gone through a major offensive slump largely due to slow starts by Cano, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and injuries to Swisher and Brett Gardner.
- All Jeter did was go 2-for-3 with two walks and he scored two runs. It was just another day at the office for “The Captain.” Jeter’s batting average is .397, which is the best in the major leagues.
- Russell Martin was 3-for-4 and his solo homer provided the Yankees’ only offense on Saturday. On Sunday, Martin was 0-for-5, including two infield groundouts, hitting into a double play and he was called out on strikes in his final at-bat. His average is at .192 and the Yankees could use consistent offense from him.
Swisher cleared all of the medical hurdles in order to return to the lineup as the designated hitter on Sunday. He homered in his second at-bat and the home run was his seventh of the season. Swisher hopes to be able to return to right-field when the Yankees open their homestand on Tuesday. . . . Meanwhile, Gardner tested his ailing right elbow in the batting cage at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and he will head out to play in two or three minor-league rehab games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being activated from the 15-day disabled list. . . . Eric Chavez, who is on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion is expected to be activated on Thursday, which is the first day he would be eligible to return to action. . . . In his fourth minor-league rehab start on Sunday, Andy Pettitte gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits over five innings for Scranton in a loss to Pawtucket. Pettitte, 39, admitted he did not pitch as well as he would have liked but he said he feels ready to join the Yankees immediately. However, general manager Brian Cashman, who was not in attendance at the game, will make the determination if Pettitte requires another start or not.
The wounded and struggling Yankees get a well-deserved day off on Monday to collect their thoughts before opening a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (3-1, 5.58 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Nova had his 15-game winning streak that dated back to June of last year snapped in a game against the Orioles on Wednesday. Nova gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. He is 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will start right-hander James Shields (5-0, 3.05 ERA). Shields struck out 11 in 6 innings for a victory against the Mariners on Wednesday. Shields is 5-11 with a 4.39 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.