Tagged: Lorenzo Cain

Pinpoint Pineda Posts Win As Yankees Sweep KC

GAME 47

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

After giving up 12 runs (nine of them earned) in 11 1/3 innings in his past two starts, Michael Pineda was just determined to re-establish himself as the as the ace of the Yankees staff. On Wednesday, Pineda rediscovered his slider and held the hot-hitting Royals to just a single run.

The Yankees used Pineda’s strong effort over 6 2/3 innings and Alex Rodriguez stroked a three-run home run in the fourth inning to lead New York to a sweep of Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 32,734 at Yankee Stadium.

Pineda (6-2) held the Royals to six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts to snap a two-game personal losing streak. The Royals’ lone run off Pineda came in the first inning on a one-out solo home run by Mike Moustakas, his fifth homer of the season.

The Yankees were able to tie the contest in the second inning on a leadoff home run off right-hander Chris Young (4-1) by Brian McCann. It was McCann’s sixth home run of the season and now 25 of McCann’s 29 homers hit as a Yankee have come at home.

Young entered the contest having given up just one earned run in his past four starts. But the Yankees were able to break the 1-1 tie against Young in the fourth on a leadoff double by Brett Gardner, a walk to Chase Headley and Rodriguez’s 11th home run of the season and the 684th of his career.

The three RBIs also allowed Rodriguez to pass Lou Gehrig on the all-time RBI list at 1,995. Rodriguez is in third place on the list and he is just one RBI behind Barry Bonds, who is second.

Young was charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Once again the “Twin Towers” of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller closed out the game in the final two innings to nail down the sweep.

The Royals did score an unearned run off Betances in the eighth after Lorenzo Cain drew a walk and later stole second. With one out, Kendrys Morales topped a slow roller to the right of second base. Didi Gregorius fielded it but threw wildly past Mark Teixeira at first for an error that allowed Cain to score.

It was the third unearned run Betances has allowed the season but he still has not allowed an earned run this season. Morales’ infield single was the first hit Betances had allowed in the past 31 batters he had faced.

Miller pitched a perfect ninth to remain 14-for-14 in saves on the season.

The sweep of the Royals allowed the Yankees to claim the season series with the defending American League champions four games to two.

The victory also improved the team’s season record to 25-22 and  –  combined with Tampa Bay’s 3-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners  –  the Yankees have a 1-1/2-game lead over the Rays in the American League East. The Royals, who now have lost four straight games, are 28-18.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda, 26, wobbled a bit in the middle innings but he was able to get out of a major jam in the fifth inning that was crucial to the Yankees winning the game. With Paulo Orlando, who had hit a one-out double, on third and Alcides Escobar on second after a single and a wild pitch, Pineda was able to strike out swinging both Moustakas and Cain with sliders that broke out of the strike zone. With his effort on Wednesday, Pineda lowered his season ERA to 3.36.
  • Rodriguez now has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs on the season, which is second on the club in both categories to Teixeira. Rodriguez was 2-for-4 in the game and also extended his hitting streak to six games. In that span the 40-year-old designated hitter is 10-for-22 (.455), which has raised his season average to .276. That as high as his batting average has been since April 20, when it was at .286.
  • Headley may have committed his 10th error of the season on Tuesday but he still can play some excellent defense at third base. He proved it in the first inning on Wednesday when he took base hits away from both Escobar and Eric Hosmer. Escobar hit a one-hop bullet to Headley’s left but Headley was able to glove it on a short hop and throw out Escobar. Hosmer later hit ball well to Headley’s right because he was shifted against the left-handed batter. However, Headley was able to dive to his right and glove the ball behind him. He then righted himself and barely nipped with the throw as Hosmer slid head first into the bag. If those two plays are not made than Moustakas’ home run would have made a multi-run inning likely. So defense DOES matter.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Gregorius committed his sixth error of the season and cost the team a run but it is hard to quibble with the Yankees after they were all but left for dead when they lost 10 of 11 games entering this series. They not only got off the mat, they also swept a team that had the best record in baseball at the time. The Yankees three starting pitchers in the series, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren and Pineda, combined to yield just three runs on 18 hits and two walks in 20 innings against the hottest offense in baseball. Amazing!

BOMBER BANTER

Masahiro Tanaka gave up three runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in three innings on Wednesday in his second rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Tanaka threw 62 pitches and reported no issues with either tendinitis in his right wrist or tightness in his right forearm. It is not clear if the Yankees intend to activate Tanaka from the disabled list or whether he will be asked to make a third start.

ON DECK

The Yankees will begin their first West Coast road trip of the season on Thursday when they open a four-game weekend series with the Oakland Athletics at o.co Coliseum.

Northern California native CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia, 35, was charbroiled for six runs on seven hits and one walk in only 2 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on Friday.

Sabathia will be opposed by 24-year-old right-hander Kendall Graveman (2-2, 6.04 ERA), who blanked the Rays on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings on Friday.

Game-time will be 10:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

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Warren Courts Dominance To Overturn Royals

GAME 46

YANKEES 5, ROYALS 1

Critics assessing Adam Warren’s first six starts argued that he was ill-suited to start games, he had lost velocity he had as a reliever and he would be more productive in the bullpen. Well, after his past three starts, including the gem he threw on Tuesday, those critics need to just shut up.

Warren pitched one-run baseball into the seventh inning and Mark Teixeira fueled the offense with a double, a home run and four RBIs as New York stormed back into first place in the American League East with a victory over Kansas City at Yankee Stadium.

The Royals’ only tally came in the sixth inning on a one-out solo home run by Paulo Orlando as Warren (3-3) held the Royals to just two hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

The Yankees, meanwhile, jumped on left-hander Jason Vargas (3-2) with two out in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez drew a walk and Teixeira followed with a blast that caromed off the wall of the visitor’s bullpen in left-center for his 14th home run of the season.

Vargas, who was making his first start after being activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, left after four innings yielding two runs on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

The Yankees padded their lead in the fifth off veteran right-hander Joe Blanton.

Chris Young reached on a one-out infield hit and Rodriguez advanced him to third with an opposite-field single to right. Teixeira then lined a double into the gap in right-center that rolled to the wall that scored both runners.

Teixeira was able to advance to third when center-fielder Lorenzo Cain briefly bobbled the ball for an error. Chase Headley then scored Teixeira with a sacrifice fly.

That was all the support Warren needed. Justin Wilson got the final two outs in the seventh and the “Twin Towers,” Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, each pitched a scoreless inning between them to seal the victory for the Yankees.

The Yankees are now 24-22 on the season and, as a result of the Tampa Bay’s 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees have reclaimed a half-game lead in the division on the Rays. The Royals dropped to 28-17.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Warren, 27, was unable to pitch six full innings in any of his first six starts this season and in all nine of his career starts. But he now has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his past three starts. Despite losing his previous two starts, Warren in his past three starts has allowed only six runs on 13 hits and five walks with 16 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings for a 2.75 ERA and an excellent 0.92 ERA. It appears that when right-handers Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova are activated off the disabled list over the next several weeks, Warren may not be so easy to remove from the rotation.
  • Teixeira’s “turn-back-the-clock” season back to 2011, when he hit 39 home runs and drove in 111 runs, continues. Teixeira’s 14 home runs are second in the American League to Nelson Cruz of the Mariners, who has 17. His 35 RBIs are tied for third in the AL with Cruz. Teixeira, 35, is on a pace to hit 48 home runs and drive in 120 runs. His career high in homers is the 45 he hit in his final season with the Texas Rangers in 2006.
  • Though Rodriguez has not hit a home run since May 16 in Kansas City, he now has a modest five-game hitting streak and he is 8-for-18 (.444) over that span. That has raised his season average to .270. Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with two runs scored in Tuesday’s game.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Other than Headley committing his 10th error at third base this season there is not much to criticize. After losing 10 of 11 games through Sunday, the Yankees have now got off the mat to win two games in a row against the team with the best record in baseball to retake first place. I can’t complain about that.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the Royals and win the season series four games to two with a victory on Wednesday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.59 ERA) will go to the mound for the Yankees looking to get back on track. Pineda has been blasted for nine runs on 18 hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings over his past two starts  –  losses to the Royals and Rangers.

Right-hander Chris Young (4-0, 0.78 ERA) will pitch for the Royals. Young, 36, shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts over six innings on Friday. He also defeated the Yankees on May 15 in Kansas City.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Volquez Propels Royals To Shutout Over Yankees

GAME 39

ROYALS 6, YANKEES 0

Edinson Volquez threw seven shutout innings and Salvador Perez homered and drove in two runs as Kansas City blanked New York on Sunday to take the three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

Volquez (3-3) yielded just three hits, issued no walks and fanned five.

Perez opened the scoring for the Royals with a solo home run with one out in the second inning off left-hander Chris Capuano (0-1), who was making his season debut after coming off the disabled list earlier in the day from a right quad strain.

The Royals added three runs in the fourth off Capuano and right-hander Esmil Rogers on consecutive RBI hits by Kendrys Morales, Perez and Omar Infante.

Capuano was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 3-plus innings.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 22-17, but they remain a game ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Royals improved to 24-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

There were no positives at all for the Yankees.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The right elbow injury to Chase Whitley forced the Yankees to rush Capuano from his minor-league rehab and it appears he is going to have to build back his stamina. He did look fine in his first three innings but he began the fourth with back-to-back walks to Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, which led to the three-run inning.
  • It appears that beginning on May 12 the Yankees have fallen back into their offensive woes of 2013 and 2014. In their past six games they have lost five of them and they scored only six runs in those games. Part of the issue is the Yankees have been placed on a killer schedule of 30 games in 31 days with most of those on the road. This team needs rest and they need to get back home to get the offense going again.
  • The Yankees are going to have to make a decision soon about Stephen Drew. He was 0-for-4 and is batting .177 on the season. When a team is struggling to score runs he sticks out like a sore thumb. His days in pinstripes may be numbered if he does not turn it around like right now.

BOMBER BANTER

First baseman Mark Teixeira left the game in the seventh inning with a right big toe contusion. X-rays taken after the game were negative for a fracture. Teixeira was hit on the right foot by a 3-0 pitch from Volquez in the fourth inning but remained in the game until Garrett Jones replaced him defensively in the seventh. Teixeira said he plans to play in the Yankees’ next game on Tuesday.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Capuano, 36, from the disabled list on Sunday the team optioned right-hander Bryan Mitchell back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell, 24, was recalled on Saturday but did not appear in a game.

ON DECK

The Yankees will get a much needed day of rest on Monday before opening a series with the Washington Nationals on Monday at Nationals Park.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi suffered his first loss last Monday against the Rays, surrendering four runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.

He will be opposed by left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.25 ERA). Gonzalez did not get a decision on Tuesday in giving up five runs on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Whitley Chases What Matters: First Victory In KC

GAME 60

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

In his major-league debut on May 15 against the New York Mets, Chase Whitley drew high praise from former Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was providing color commentary of the game for the MLB Network. After the way the rookie pitched against the Royals on Friday, now Yankee fans can see what Smoltz noticed.

Whitley pitched seven solid innings in his longest start of his career and he went on to earn his first major-league victory behind the hitting of Brian McCann as New York edged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 23,418 at Kauffman Stadium.

Whitley (1-0) yielded two runs on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in his first outing to last more than five innings. Whitley threw 51 strikes out of 87 pitches for a 59 percent strike ratio, keeping the Royals off balance with his fastball, slider and change-up.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning, keyed by a one-out, bases-loaded, three-run double off the bat of McCann.

Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a single up the middle off veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-6). Brett Gardner then looped an opposite-field single into left and  –  one out later  – Guthrie brushed the right shoulder of Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases.

McCann then stroked an outside fastball into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand Whitley and the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

Guthrie was charged with four runs on six hits and one walk while he fanned two in seven innings of work. He has now winless in his past 11 starts dating back to April 9.

Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless eighth and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 16 chances this season.

The Yankees took an 1-0 lead in the second inning when Teixeira led off by lining a single to right off Guthrie. Yangervis Solarte drew a one-out walk and Brian Roberts provided a two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira.

However, the Royals were able to tie it up in the bottom of the second when Alex Gordon laced a one-out double into the right-field corner and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left.

The Royals did close to within two runs in the fifth when Gordon led off the frame with a single and stole second. One out later, Lorenzo Cain bounced a ball into left-center that he was able to hustle into a double.

However, Whitley ended the threat by retiring Mike Moustakas on a groundout and Alcides Escobar on a flyout.

The 24-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15 as the Yankees lost starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda to injury in quick succession. The converted reliever did not get a decision in his previous four starts despite the fact he is sporting an excellent 2.42 ERA.

With the victory the Yankees have won two in a row and they improved their season record to 31-29. They also were able to pass the Baltimore Orioles to claim second place in the American League East six games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, who have now lost 21 of the past 31 games to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 29-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Whitley may end up being more than just a fill-in starter until Sabathia and Pineda are expected to return in July. His first five starts  –  and particularly this one  –  prove that Whitley deserves to stay in the rotation as long he continues to pitch this well. David Phelps is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts and Vidal Nuno is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts as replacements. Whitley has simply been more impressive as a starter than they have, period.
  • McCann has been a major disappointment at the plate this season after entering the season as a career .275 hitter with 20 or more homers in the past six seasons. But his big three-run double showed he is willing to hit the ball where it is pitched to beat the extreme shifts teams play on him. Since May 27, McCann is quietly resurrecting his hitting. He is 14-for-33 (.424) in that span to raise his season average to .231.
  • Roberts entered the game in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk that dates back to May 31. But his two-out RBI single gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees have been really disappointed with the production they have gotten from the free agents (Ellsbury, McCann, Roberts, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson) they signed this past winter. They all need to really start picking it up soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

After the team went through a horrendous four-game losing streak while the Blue Jays were red hot, they finally seem to have some life back in them. So after getting a huge victory out a pitcher they had not planned to use at all this season things may be finally falling into place. It’s about time, too.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Royals on Saturday.

Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.

The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.05 ERA). The converted reliever will be making his seventh start and he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in those starts. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on one hit and one walk while striking out five in six innings on Monday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Pettitte, Wells Star As Yanks Spin KC Masterpiece

GAME 35

YANKEES 3, ROYALS 2

A pitcher losing command of one of his best pitches is like a skilled surgeon trying to work without a scalpel. But that is what happened to Andy Pettitte in his two previous starts. He did not have a feel for his signature cutter.

But he certainly rediscovered it on Saturday as he pitched seven strong innings and struck out seven batters while Vernon Wells backed him up with a two-run home run in the fifth inning that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead as New York edged Kansas City in front of 30,910 fans at Kauffman Stadium.

Pettitte (4-2) settled into a groove after allowing Billy Butler to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with a leadoff home run to center-field. After that Pettitte gave up a two-out single to Alcides Escobar and walked Lorenzo Cain in the fifth. But he ended that threat by retiring Alex Gordon on a groundout.

The 40-year-old left-hander gave up two runs on five hits and walk and retired 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced to pick up his first victory since April 19.

Meanwhile, the Yankees took advantage of a big mistake by James Shields (2-3) to take control of the game.

Shields hit Chris Stewart on the left triceps on a 1-2 pitch as Stewart led off the fifth. Two batters later, Wells ripped a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his eighth home run of the season that gave the Yankees a lead they would not surrender the rest of the way.

Shields gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks and he fanned five in eight innings of work.

David Robertson pitched in the eighth and struck out the side for the Yankees.

Mariano Rivera came on in the ninth and gave up a two-out double to Salvador Perez. But he retired Mike Moustakas on a flyout to Wells in left to earn his 14th save in as many chances this season.

The save for Rivera was also the 70th time in his career he has saved a game started by Pettitte, which is the most for any starter and closer tandem in major-league history.

The Yankees actually took advantage of an error on a throwing error by Moustakas in the third inning to take an early 1-0 lead.

Chris Nelson opened the inning by lacing a double down the left-field line. Two outs later, Robinson Cano slapped a bouncing ball to the left of Moustakas. The Royals’ third baseman dove, got up and threw high and wide of first base to allow Nelson to score from second.

The Royals manufactured a run of off Pettitte in bottom of the third to tie it.

Elliot Johnson reached on a swinging bunt down the third-base line and he later stole second. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a groundout off the bat of Cain.

The Yankees extended their current winning streak to four games and they are now 14-4 this season in games decided by two runs or less.

The victory also allowed the Yankees to claim full possession of first place in the American League East with a record of 22-13. The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles are a full game out in second place. The Royals, who have now lost five of their past six games, are 18-15.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his last two starts, Pettitte was hammered for 11 runs (10 earned) on 14 hits and five walks in 9 1/3 innings. On Saturday, he looked more like the pitcher who was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA before those two dreadful outings. Pettitte had command of the cutter and he mixed his curve and slider to keep the Royals’ batters off balance all evening. The Yankees’ top four starters, Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia, and Phil Hughes, are a combined 14-9 this season.
  • Wells was 0-for-5 in Friday’s 11-run, 16-hit explosion against the Royals but he bounced back nicely in this game. Wells is currently second on the team with a .281 batting average and has eight home runs and 18 RBIs on the season. It is going to be difficult for manager Joe Girardi to bench him when Curtis Granderson is activated form the disabled list this month.
  • Robertson came out the bullpen firing seeds in the eighth inning. Robertson needed only 12 pitches to strike out Escobar and Cain looking and Gordon swinging. In his past four outings, Robertson has not give up a run or a hit and he has walked one while striking out eight in 4 1/3 innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

How can you complain when the team got a great effort out of Pettitte and the bullpen? Wells hit a timely home run and the Yankees took sole possession of first place. Who said this team would be awful because of all of the injuries they suffered? Not me.

BOMBER BANTER

Shortstop Eduardo Nunez missed his sixth straight game because he was unable to shake nagging discomfort in his left ribcage and the Yankees may have to place him on the 15-day disabled list if he is unable to play by Monday’s doubleheader in Cleveland against the Indians. Nunez told trainer Steve Donohue on Saturday that he still is feeling pain when he is doing fielding drills.

ON DECK

The Yankees can use their big broom and sweep the Royals in the three-game series finale on Sunday.

Kuroda (4-2, 3.20 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda, 38, limited the Colorado Rockies to two runs on seven hits in seven innings but took the loss on Tuesday because the Yankees were blanked. The veteran right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.66 ERA in his career against Kansas City.

The Royals will start former Angels right-hander Ervin Santana (3-1, 2.36 ERA). Santana surrendered three runs on seven hits and one walk in six innings of a no-decision against the Orioles on Tuesday. He is 5-6 with a 5.90 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

 

 

Overbay’s 5 RBIs Make Royals Look Like Paupers

GAME 34

YANKEES 11, ROYALS 6

Mark Who?

It is getting to the point that Yankee fans may forget their injured first baseman Mark Teixeira because his replacement Lyle Overbay is doing so well in his absence.

Overbay was 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs on Friday to lead 16-hit attack as New York outslugged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 24,521 at Kauffman Stadium.

Though starter Phil Hughes (2-2) was staked to 4-0 and 5-3 leads, he was unable to hold onto it in the fifth inning when Alex Gordon followed back-to-back bloop one-out singles by Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain with a two-run double just over the outstretched glove of left-fielder Vernon Wells on the warning track to tie the game at 5-5.

However, the Yankees had already scored five runs off former Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Wade Davis (2-3) on a pair of two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Overbay in the second inning and an RBI double off the bat of Overbay in the fourth.

So the Yankees opened the sixth with a double off the right-field wall by Suzuki and a soft lined single to center by Jayson Nix that advanced Suzuki to third and chased Davis from the game.

Royals manager Ned Yost replaced Davis with left-hander Bruce Chen and Overbay greeted him with a double off the top of the wall in center-field that scored Suzuki that broke the 5-5 tie and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.

Chris Nelson followed with a two-run single to right, his first RBIs as a member of the Yankees.

The Yankees went on to bat around against Chen and add two more runs in the inning to extend the lead to 10-5 and dash any hopes the Royals might have had about another rally.

Hughes was the winner despite giving up a three-run home run to Jarrod Dyson in the second inning  –  which broke Hughes’ 22-inning homerless streak entering the contest  –  and a solo shot to Mike Moustakas in the sixth.

Hughes gave up six runs on seven hits, two walks and one hit batter while he struck three in 5 2/3 innings.

But the Yankees pounded Davis for seven runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.

The No. 5, 6 and 7 hitters  for the Yankees  –  Suzuki, Nix and Overbay  –  combined to go 9-for-13 (.692) with two home runs, four doubles, eight runs scored and seven RBIs.

With the Yankees’ bullpen short because Preston Claiborne, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were unavailable to pitch, the team got a strong effort out of right-hander Shawn Kelley.

Kelley pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings and struck out six of the seven batters he faced. Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.

The Yankees’ victory was their third in a row and gave Joe Girardi his 500th triumph as manager of the Yankees.

The Yankees also improved to 21-13, which keeps them percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in first place in the American League East. The Royals dropped to 18-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Considering that when he signed a huge contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and was later sarcastically nicknamed “Lyle Overpaid” when he did not deliver big numbers there and he was released this season in the last week of spring training by the Red Sox, Overbay should have the moniker “Lyle Underpaid” with the Yankees. All Overbay has done in 32 games (29 starts) is hit .264 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Oh, he has committed only one error at first base while flashing Gold Glove-caliber defense at the position. Geesh! What a pickup for general manager Brian Cashman.
  • Suzuki entered the contest hitting .372 at Kauffman Stadium, which is the highest average for any opposing hitter in history. Well, he raised that average by going 3-for-5 with his second home run of the season, a double, a single, a stolen base, three runs scored and two RBIs. In his past nine games, Suzuki is 12-for-33 (.364) which has raised his season average from .247 to .282.
  • Kelley was absolutely sensational when he came out the bullpen in the sixth inning. Of his six strikeouts, four were swinging and he struck out the first five batters he faced. After being hammered for 10 earned runs on 13 hits and four walks in 10 1/3 innings of work over nine appearances through May 4, Kelley has not been scored upon his last three outings covering 4 1/3 innings. In that span he has fanned nine batters, mostly on his devastating slider.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Hughes pitched aggressively against the Royals, throwing first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. However, the Royals were able to catch up with his fastball and hit him hard. After pitching brilliantly in his last four starts in which his ERA was 1.93 and he won only one of those starts, Hughes was hammered for six runs and yet he won because the Yankees backed him with a lot of run support. Go figure!
  • The Royals’ pitchers must have really wanted to bear down on Wells and designated hitter Travis Hafner. The two combined to go 0-for-9 on a night the team scored 11 runs and knocked out 16 hits. Fortunately for the Yankees, the rest of the lineup was 16-for-34 (.471), which more than made up for Wells and Hafner.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees held shortstop Eduardo Nunez out of a fourth straight game but he was available to the team in an emergency. Nunez, who has been slowed by tightness in his left ribcage, could be available to start on Saturday if he suffers no setbacks throwing and taking batting practice on Saturday.  . . .  Curtis Granderson homered on Friday in his second rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Granderson, who was 1-for-5 in the game, hit his home run in the eighth inning. Granderson started the game in left-field and batted second. The 32-year-old outfielder has been on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left forearm and he could be activated within the next 10 days.  . . .  Because Kauffman Stadium was the scene where Rivera suffered a torn ACL in his right knee on May 5 last season, some of the Yankees decided to have a little fun with the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Famer. Some teammates drew a chalk outline of Rivera on the warning track and placed a sign on the outfield wall lined with stop signs and yellow tape that read “No Mo Zone.” When Rivera strolled out to look at it he laughed and he intends to keep the sign.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series with the Royals on Saturday.

The Yankees will start veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-2, 4.06 ERA), who yielded four runs (three earned) on four hits and four walks in five innings on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. But he loves Kansas City because he is 9-2 with a 3.72 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Royals.

The Royals will counter with the second former Rays right-hander in a row in James Shields (2-2, 2.52 ERA). Shields threw eight shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday but he lost a victory when the bullpen allowed the Chisox to rally for a 2-1 victory in 11 innings. Shields in 7-14 with a 4.56 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.