YANKEES 8, ROYALS 3
Recently Hall of Fame outfielder told YES Network broadcaster Ken Singleton that once Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home run the pressure on him would end and he would begin to hit home runs in bunches.
Unfortunately for the Royals, Willie Mays prophecy came true.
Rodriguez put on a power display at Kauffman Stadium like no other and the end result was three home runs, five RBIs and a victory for the New York Yankees over Kansas City.
Rdoriguez began his power display while leading off the sixth inning of a 1-1 game with a solo home run into the left field bleachers off Royals starter and losing pitcher Sean O’Sullivan (1-4). In fact, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson followed Rodriguez one-out later with back-to-back solo home runs of their own to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.
After the Royals touched Phil Hughes with two runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth inning, on the first pitch Rodriguez blasted a mammoth shot into the batter’s eye in center-field off reliever Kanekoa Texeira with one out in the seventh inning with Mark Teixeira on first after a single.
In the ninth inning, Teixeira again led off the inning with a single off reliever Greg Holland. After falling behind 2-0, Holland uncorked a fastball up and over the middle of the plate and Rodriguez deposited this one into a fountain in left-field to put the game out of reach at 8-3.
It was the 56th multiple home run game and the fourth three-homer game of his career. The three home runs also gave him 604 for his career and he now has 21 home runs and 97 RBIs for the season.
With the five RBis, Rodriguez passed the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and now leads the major leagues in runs batted in.
Hughes (14-5) pitched a solid six innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and one walk. He entered Saturday’s game with 7.68 runs per game, the best in the major leagues.
The Royals managed to put pressure on Hughes with some well-timed but not exactly well-stroked hits. They also benefitted from a lost ball in the lights.
Wilson Betemit scored Billy Butler, who had doubled, with a seeing-eye single up the middle in the first inning to give the Royals a 1-0 lead.
The Yankees tied it in the fifth inning when Brett Gardner scored from third when Derek Jeter hit into a double play.
Betemit, who is 4-for-11 in the series, struck again leading off the sixth inning with his fifth home run of the season. The Royals added a run off Hughes with an infield hit from rookie Kila Ka’aihue, a bloop opposite field single by Alex Gordon and Yuniesky Betancourt ended up loading the bases with none out when Gardner lost Betancourt’s easy fly ball in the lights.
Ka’aihue scored one out later on a slow infield groundout to Teixeira at first base. Hughes wriggled out of further trouble by retiring Gregor Blanco and he left the game having thrown 98 pitches on a hot, humid Missouri evening.
Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Sergio Mitre shutout the Royals the rest of the way, giving up only one hit in three innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 72-44 and they maintained their two-game lead on the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Red Sox remain six games back in third place.
The Royals, meanwhile, fell to 48-69.
- Rodriguez told reporters after the game that he owed hitting coach Kevin Long for correcting a flaw in his swing so that he could clear his hips more consistently. The first two home runs Rodriguez hit on Saturday were on pitches at the knees and on the inside corner.
- Teixiera has just three hits and one RBI in the series but he is putting a fielding clinic in Kansas City. On Friday night he made a spectacular running, leaping over the shoulder catch of a foul pop in the sixth inning. On Saturday, he made four highlight reel-worthy plays. Two diving stops of hot grounders, one leaping grab of a high-hopper and a deft scoop of one-hop throw from Ramiro Pena, who played third base in place Rodriguez so Rodriguez could be the DH.
- Posada’s home run was his 13th of the season but it was his first home run since July 24 at Yankee Stadium against Kyle Davies and the Royals.
- Granderson’s home run was his 11th of the season and three of them have come off of O’Sullivan. On July 25 at Yankee Stadium, Granderson hit two home runs off O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan has faced the Yankees three times within 26 days and is 1-2.
- Before the three solo home runs in the sixth and Rodriguez added his pair of two-run shots, the Yankees struggled with runners in scoring position. In the first two games of the series they were 4-for-24 (.167) and they were 1-for-8 in this game. That means in three games they are hitting .156 with RISP.
- In the second inning with Rodriguez and Posada having just pulled off a double steal, Granderson and Gardner struck out. In the third inning, Jeter had stolen second base and Nick Swsiher walked with one out but Teixeira was retired on an infield pop and Rodriguez struck out. Jeter then hit into a rally-killing double play but Gardner did manage to score the game-tying run.
- Gardner did lose the ball in the lights in the sixth inning, however, Granderson did not hustle in from center to help his teammate and the ball dropped 20 feet in front of Gardner for a single.
Andy Pettitte threw all 50 pitches he was expected to throw in his bullpen session in Tampa, FL, but he said he did not feel completely comfortable pushing off the mound. This means he will have to wait for an evaluation from trainer Gene Monahan before he can take his next step in his attempt to come back from a left groin strain. The setback means Pettitte will not make a rehab start next week and the team will determine when Pettitte will resume throwing. . . . Reliever Alfredo Aceves, who is on the disabled list with lower back stiffness, threw 26 pitches in a rehab stint at Double-A Trenton. He is expected to pitch again on Tuesday and go three innings or 40 pitches. Aceves likely will be activated after that. The Yankees have missed the versatile Aceves in the bullpen this season and they will be pleased when he returns.
The Yankees have now clinched at least a split of the four-game series with the Royals and they will go for the series victory on Sunday.
Right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.87 ERA) will get the nod for the Yankees. Burnett shook off back spasms which delayed his start until last Tuesday and pitched well against the Rangers. He gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings but ended up with a no-decision. He is 3-2 with a 2.96 ERA in his career against the Royals.
Burnett’s opponent will be rookie right-hander Brian Bullington (0-2, 4.85 ERA), who will only be making his second major-league start. Bullington gave up three runs on five hits and a walk over six innings against the Angels on Tuesday. The Yankees have generally not fared too well against pitchers they are seeing for the first time.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.