YANKEES 4, ROYALS 3
CC Sabathia had two enemies on Thursday night: The sweltering heat of Kauffman Stadium and the scrappy band of Royals who play there.
Fortunately for Sabathia, he came close to succumbing to both but he held it together long enough to record his 15th victory of the season to lead the Yankees over the Royals.
Sabathia (15-5) pitched one-run ball for eight innings before the heat and the Royals put enough pressure on him with two outs in the ninth inning. However, after David Robertson surrendered a two-run double to Willie Bloomquist to bring the Royals to within a run, Robertson struck out Jason Kendall with Bloomquist on third to earn his first save of the season and only the second of his career.
Robertson was summoned only because Mariano Rivera was given the night off because he had pitched in the Yankees’ two previous contests.
The outfield trio of Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Austin Kearns along with Derek Jeter spearheaded a balanced 10-hit attack that handed Sabathia a 4-1 lead by the seventh inning. The foursome combined for nine of the 10 hits, scored three runs and drove in two.
Kearns blasted his ninth home run of the season and his first as a Yankee off Royals starter and losing pitcher Bruce Chen (7-6) with one out in the fourth inning to make the score 3-1. Alex Rodriguez drove in the final Yankee tally in the seventh inning after Jeter reached on an error and Swisher singled and Mark Teixeira advanced Jeter to third with a fly out to deep center.
Rodriguez’s grounder to third, with Swisher running to stay out of the double play, scored Jeter with what ultimately became the winning run. It was Rodriguez’s 91st RBI of the season, which is second in the major leagues.
The victory gives the Yankees a major-league best record of 71-43 and it also extended their lead in the American League East to a full two games over the idle Tampa Bay Rays. The Boston Red Sox, who lost 7-6 to the Toronto Blue Jays due to a ninth-inning meltdown by closer Jonathan Papelbon, dropped six games back in third place.
The Royals season record fell to 47-68.
- Coming off a 0-for-5 night in which he struck out four times, Swisher was 3-for-4 with a walk. His most impressive at-bat was his fifth-inning walk off Chen. Failing behind 0-2, Swisher battled Chen for 13 pitches to earn the free pass. It was a big reason why Chen was pulled the next inning after throwing 92 pitches.
- Jeter is showing signs of life with the bat again with two hits and two runs scored. After hitting .243 in June and .245 in July, Jeter is hitting .348 in August. Jeter leads the major leagues in runs scored with 84. Teixeira is second with 83.
- Granderson’s extra work with hitting coach Kevin Long paid some immediate dividends. Granderson was 2-for-3 with an RBI single in the second inning that opened the Yankees’ scoring. Both hits came off the left-hander Chen. Granderson entered the game hitting a woeful .206 against left-handers.
- Sabathia ended up giving up 10 hits and two walks in 8 2/3 innings but still pitched in control to limit the Royals to three runs. He is tied with the Rays’ David Price for the American League lead in victories. This is the quickest Sabathia has reached 15 victories in his career.
- Though Teixeira and Rodriguez each contributed an RBI, the both of the them along with Robinson Cano combined to go 0-for-12 in the game and left eight men on base.
- Francisco Cervelli is finally crashing back to Earth. He was 0-for-4 in the game and his season average, which was .400 on May 17, has dropped to .250. After hitting .180 in June and .214 in July, Cervelli is batting .154 in August.
- Swisher committed an embarrassing error on the bases after he singled in the first inning. With a 3-2 count on Teixeira, Swisher took off for second base too soon and was caught by Chen.
- Robertson likely will not be used as a closer too often after he allowed a two-run double to Bloomquist, an infield single by Wilson Betermit that Robertson bobbled coming off the mound and he needed eight pitches to strike out Kendall with Bloomquist on third and pinch-runner Chris Getz on second.
As expected, Teixiera rejoined the team in time to start Thursday’s game after missing the previous two games tending to the birth of his son in New York. . . . Swisher was removed from the game in the eighth inning because manager Joe Girardi said he looked “exhausted.” The heat took out Royals starting center-fielder Gregor Blanco in the fifth inning. He was removed and required IV treatments in the Royals’ clubhouse. . . . Left-hander Andy Pettitte had his simulated game scheduled for Thursday in Tampa, FL, postponed due to a sore left hip flexor tendon. He will try again on Friday. Pettitte has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 20 with a strained left groin.
The Yankees will attempt to clinch at least a tie in their four-game weekend series with the Royals on Friday.
Right-hander Dustin Moseley (2-1, 3.86 ERA) will make his third start for the Yankees. He is coming off a sterling victory over the Red Sox on Sunday in which he allowed only two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Moseley is 0-0 with a 1.86 ERA against the Royals in his career.
The Royals will counter with right-hander Kyle Davies (5-7, 5.21 ERA). Davies has only one victory in his last 12 starts — with four losses and seven no-decisions. In his last outing against the Mariners he gave up two runs in the sixth inning after shutting out Seattle in the first five frames and lost. He is 2-0 with a 6.00 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.