YANKEES 8, ROYALS 2
Shelley Duncan broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning with an RBI single and Ramiro Pena added an RBI single and hit his first major league home run as the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals 8-2 on Monday night.
With most of the starters of the New York Yankees resting a day after the team clinched the American League East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, some of the September call-ups got an opportunity to contribute in a big way.
Fill-in starter Chad Gaudin (6-10) pitched his best game as a Yankee, going 6 2/3 innings and giving up two runs on just four hits and two walks. Gaudin struck out five batters as he pitched in place of A,J. Burnett, who requested the day off so he could be at his father’s side for a surgical procedure.
One of the Yankees regulars, Robinson Cano, put the game out of reach with a grand slam home run during a five-run seventh inning as the Yankees won their fifth consecutive game and kept their momentum heading to the playoffs that begin next week.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar (7-12) kept the game close until the seventh inning. Through six innings he given up just three runs on eight hits and one walk. But he ran into big trouble in the seventh inning.
Former Scranton catcher Francisco Cervelli hit a double to start the inning and Pena followed with a single to drive in Cervelli to make the score 4-2.
After Pena stole second, Brett Gardner hit a soft liner into left to move Pena to third and Melky Cabrera drew a walk to set the set the stage for Cano’s big blow. Cano took a high 0-1 fastball and sent the ball into the last row of the right-centerfield bleachers for the second grand slam of his career.
Cano now has 25 home runs and 84 RBIs and the 25 home runs helped the 2009 Yankees set a franchise record with five players who have hit 25 or more home runs: Cano, Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira.
Johnny Damon, who was held out of the game after an hour and 56 minute rain delay to protect his sore calves from the wet conditions, could become the sixth player because he has 24 home runs on the season.
Damaso Marte completed the seventh inning by getting Alex Gordon on a foul popup and Alfredo Aceves pitched two scoreless 1-2-3 innings to finish the game for Gaudin, who is fighting to make the postseason roster as a long reliever.
His effort Monday night was impressive enough.
“He’s given us a lot to think about,” manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com.
Eric Hinske opened the scoring for the Yankees with a RBI single to drive in Cano, who had doubled, for the Yankees first run.
The Royals tied it in the next frame on a solo opposite-field home run off the bat of Mark Teahen.
The Yankees struck back an inning later after Cervelli had singled. Pena was asked to make contact on a hit-and-run play but missed the pitch and Cervelli was thrown out by Miguel Olivo.
On the very next pitch Pena hit a fly ball to right-center that landed three rows into the seats for his first major-league home run. But his teammates decided to play a little prank on him as he got to the Yankees dugout.
Rodriguez had urged his teammates to give Pena the silent treatment when he reached the dugout. An excited Pena was stunned to his teammates sitting quietly on the bench until Jorge Posada led the charge of players who came to congratulate the rookie.
Gaudin was the big winner on the night. He is trying to become a member of the 10-man pitching staff for the opening playoff series. With seven spots set (CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain, Mariano Rivera, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes), Gaudin is battling Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney and David Robertson for the three available spots in the bullpen.
He and Aceves can throw multiple innings of relief and Gaudin’s effort Monday night will make it tough on Girardi. Gaudin’s ERA in his past three starts is 3.31.
“That’s all I’m out there trying to do,” Gaudin said. “Get the team closer to the playoffs, closer to being ready for the playoffs and just keeping it going. And having the confidence and the backing of my manager is a great thing.”