New York Yankees jump all over Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals

By Alan Eskew, The Sports Xchange   |   May 18, 2017 at 3:49 PM
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Jason Vargas was putting up Cy Young worthy credentials in his first seven starts.

It took the New York Yankees four innings to spoil that.

Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer, Starlin Castro had two doubles and a single, and Michael Pineda pitched effectively into the seventh inning as the Yankees topped the Kansas City Royals 11-7 on Wednesday night.

Every Yankees starter had at least one hit, and five had multi-hit games. Their 16 hits matched a season high.

Castro scored a pair of runs, drove in another and lifted his average to .351. Aaron Judge scored two runs, bringing his total to an American League-leading 32.

"We were patient on Vargas and made him work," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. We've put guys on base and we've hit home runs. That's a pretty good combination."

Vargas (5-2) entered the game with a major-league-best 1.01 ERA, but he left it with a 2.03 ERA, giving up more earned runs (six) in four innings than he had in his previous 44 2/3 innings (five).

"In the long run, probably," Vargas said he would be able to shake off this outing after all the great starts. "But the fact of the matter was the only game that mattered was tonight and getting us back into that winner's category and get us moving in the right direction again.

"It's never easy to swallow when you're not able to get out of an inning and you had a real good opportunity a couple of times to get out of that inning."

Hicks' three-run homer with two outs in the fourth gave the Yankees a 5-0 cushion that the Royals could not overcome, and the Yankees kept adding on.

"Hicks has played really, really well," Girardi said. "That's why we continue to use him."

Pineda (4-2), who lost to the Royals twice last season, was removed in the seventh after giving up a single to Brandon Moss and third baseman Chase Headley committed two errors, fielding and throwing, on one play. Alcides Escobar's sacrifice fly scored Moss for an unearned run.

"It was kind of mixed," Girardi said of Pineda's start. "He gave up a couple of homers, but he had to sit through some long innings and sometimes that can be difficult. But I thought he was OK."

Pineda allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts in six-plus innings.

"When you have a lot of scoring like that, you feel pretty good and comfortable," Pineda said.

Cheslor Cuthbert drove in two runs in the ninth and Mike Moustakas another, forcing the Yankees to summon Dellin Betances to get the final out and his first save of the season.

The Yankees (24-13) picked up a game on the Baltimore Orioles and lead the American League East by 1 1/2 games. The Royals (16-23) own the worst record in the AL.

Vargas had given up one earned run over 26 2/3 innings in his first four starts at Kauffman Stadium, a microscopic 0.36 ERA.

It took the Yankees less than inning to pin another run on Vargas' home ledger. Brett Gardner led off the game with an opposite-field single and raced home on Castro's double.

Vargas gave up five runs in a 49-pitch fourth inning when the Yankees sent 10 men to the plate.

Castro's one-out double started it and Vargas walked Judge. After Vargas retired Headley on a fly ball to center, Didi Gregorius singled home Castro.

Then came the big blow as Hicks took a 2-2 Vargas changeup just down the left-field line for a three-run homer.

"It wasn't a good pitch," Vargas said. "It was right over the middle of the plate. I made some good pitches to get to that point of the at-bat and just didn't execute there. I was definitely hoping it would hook foul. I knew when he hit it that it would have to be blown pretty good to get foul."

Chris Carter singled and scored on Gardner's triple to the right-field corner to make it 6-0 before Vargas could close out the inning.

The Royals got two runs back in the fourth when Salvador Perez homered, his ninth.

The Yankees, however, answered that with four runs in the fifth off Peter Moylan. The inning included Headley and Gregorius run-producing singles. Carter picked up an RBI on a fielder's-choice groundout and Gardner added a sacrifice fly, making it 10-2.

Whit Merrifield hit his fourth Royals' homer in the fifth.

Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain left after five innings with an injury after diving for a ball in the fourth inning.

"He tweaked his wrist a little bit," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We kind of took him out as a precaution."

NOTES: Royals RHP Ian Kennedy, who is on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain, will likely be activated Saturday for a start at Minnesota. Kennedy threw a side session and tested his hamstring in pitchers fielding practice before the game with no problems. ... Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to start LF Brett Gardner Wednesday because he's "been hot" over Jacoby Ellsbury, who will start Thursday. Gardner went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. ... Royals CF Lorenzo Cain stole his American League-leading 11th base in the first inning. ... Yankees LHP Jordan Montgomery and Royals LHP Danny Duffy are the Thursday probables for the series finale.

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