When the Royals come to town, you have certain expectations. You expect that they’re going to pepper you with hits. You expect that they’re going to play stellar defense. You expect that you’ll need to score your runs early, before they reach into their elite bullpen.
You don’t expect a four-home run power display against your ace, with three of them coming from one player. You don’t expect shoddy defense. You certainly don’t expect to do much damage against them in the late innings. So, of course, all of that is exactly what happened.
The Yankees picked up their second straight win against Kansas City Tuesday night in a topsy-turvy 10-7 contest that saw five lead changes. Masahiro Tanaka had his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs on seven hits, yet made it through the seventh inning with just 79 pitches thrown. Tanaka wasn’t sharp, surrendering three home runs on the evening, though he was able to retire the last six batters he faced and may have returned in the eighth inning had the Yankees not been leading.
Tanaka’s rough showing threatened to dampen an early onslaught by the Yankee bats against KC starter Kris Medlen. After scoring on a sac-fly in the first, Tanaka gave up his first long-ball of the night to Cheslor Cuthbert in the second, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single from Chase Headley, but Lorenzo Cain launched a solo shot in the third to erase the damage. The Yankees again fought back in the bottom half, when Medlen was chased from the game after putting two runners aboard. An Aaron Hicks walk loaded the bases for Didi Gregorius, who promptly dumped a pitch into right-center field. A rare misplay by the Royals outfield allowed the bases to clear, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead.
The score would hold until the fifth, when Cain crushed his second homer of the night, a three-run shot that put Kansas City back on top. Familiar frustration began to mount when the Yankee bats went cold in next two innings, but they found their footing again in the seventh. After Dustin Ackley singled in the tying run, Hicks lined a double that gave the Yankees a 7-6 lead. Andrew Miller, making his first appearance in a setup role, promptly surrendered a third home run to Lorenzo Cain to lead off the eighth, tying the game once again.
After Ben Gamel reached on an error in the eighth, Brett Gardner helped the Yankees take the lead back for good.
The Play: Brett Gardner’s go-ahead double in the eighth (+.275 WPA)
With Gamel on first and one out, Gardner fired a Kelvin Herrera pitch into the gap in left-center field. Gamel came all the way around to score, putting the Yankees on top 8-7. After Starlin Castro reached on a HBP, Brian McCann delivered his third hit of the game, a two-run double, to drive the final nail in the Royals’ coffin.
Yankees: Brian McCann (3 for 5, 1 2B, 1 R, 2 RBI)
Royals: Lorenzo Cain (3 for 4, 3 HR, 3 R, 5 RBI)
-Cain is the first player to hit three home runs in a game against the Yankees since J.D. Martinez did it last June.
-Cain’s solo shot off Miller in the eighth was the first run Miller has surrendered this season.
-Mark Teixeira sat out the game with neck spasms and is considered day to day. Jacoby Ellsbury missed his fourth straight game with his strained hip. The Yankees don’t expect a DL trip, but he’s likely still at least a few days away from returning.
-Castro returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game with an injury to his rib cage. He picked up a hit and also reached on a HBP in four plate appearances, scoring two runs.
-Gamel made his first career start. Though he was the only member of the Yankee lineup without a hit, he reached on a crucial error in the eighth inning and scored the pivotal go-ahead run.
“Maybe it’s the weather heating up? I don’t know. All of a sudden I think we’re swinging the bats like we’re capable of, and you’re getting contributions up and down the lineup…some big hits early in the game, some big hits late in the game. They did a nice job.” -Joe Girardi on the team’s suddenly live bats
The Highlight: Didi clears the bases in the third
It’s hard to pick just one highlight from this one, but Didi’s three-run double in the third inning set the tone and let us know we were in for a roller coaster ride.
Having guaranteed themselves at least a split with the defending world champions, the Yankees will look to pick up a second consecutive series win when they meet Yordano Ventura tomorrow night. Ventura owns a 4.65 ERA in 31 innings so far in 2016. The Yanks will send Michael Pineda to the mound to oppose him. Pineda will hope to build upon his last start, in which he was able to limit the Red Sox to just two runs over six innings. Game time is 7:05 pm.
Lead photo: Brad Penner / USA Today Sports, Video: MLB.com