KANSAS CITY -- Yankee-killer Larry Gura survived a second-inning home run blitz and defused the powerful Bronx Bombers once again Wednesday in pitching the Kansas City Royals to a 7-2 victory over New York in the first game of the American League playoffs.
Frank White and Willie Wilson had two-run doubles, Willie Aikens delivered a two-run single and incomparable George Brett hit his usual playoff homer for the Royals, but it was Gura's pitching _ especially in the clutch _ that highlighted the Royals' triumph.
The second game of the best-of-five series for the AL pennant will be played at Royals Stadium Thursday night, with right-hander Dennis Leonard pitching for Kansas City and left-hander Rudy May going for New York.
Gura, who has made a habit of beating the Yankees ever since he was traded by them in 1976, surrendered back-to-back home runs to Rick Cerone and Lou Piniella in the second inning, but then settled down and allowed only two runners past first base over the last six innings to raise his lifetime record against New York to 8-1.
Although touched for 10 hits, the curve-balling left-hander was at his best under pressure. He was especially effective against the Yankees' most feared weapon, Reggie Jackson, retiring the slugging outfielder four times _ including twice with runners in scoring position.
It appeared for a while that the Yankees would make short work of Gura. With one out in the second inning, Cerone and Piniella drove consecutive homers into the left-field stands, marking the first time in AL Championship Series play that the feat has been accomplished.
When Aurelio Rodriguez followed with a double, there was activity in the Royals' bullpen but Gura escaped further trouble by retiring the next two batters, then seemed to regain his confidence.
The Yankees mounted only two other serious threats against Gura _ in the third and seventh innings. Bob Watson doubled with one out in the third but was left stranded on third base as Gura retired Jackson on a groundout and Eric Soderholm on a fly to right.
Gura's most anxious moment came in the seventh, when Bucky Dent and Watson stroked consecutive two-out singles, putting runners on first and third and bringing up Jackson. Royals' Manager Jim Frey went to the mound to discuss the possibility of bringing in ace reliever Dan Quisenberry but decided to stick with Gura and the southpaw responded to his manager's faith by getting Jackson on a groundout to end the inning.
Gura struck out four and walked none.
The Royals seized upon the wildness of Yankee starter Ron Guidry to bounce back quickly from the 2-0 deficit. Guidry survived a first-inning two-out double by Brett but his control deserted him in the second inning and the Royals capitalized to even the score at 2-2 in their half of the second.
Amos Otis started things with a ground single to center and then stole second _ his seventh successful steal in seven attempts in playoff competition. Guidry then walked John Wathan and, after striking out Willie Aikens, got a big boost from Piniella, who made a sliding catch in left field of Darrell Porter's blooper for the second out.
But Guidry, who struggled for most of the season despite compiling a 17-10 record, dug himself a bigger hole by uncorking a wild pitch that sent the runners to second and third. White then brought both runners home with a blooper into short left field which fell in front of the slow-footed Piniella for a double.
Guidry's wildness finally did in the Yankees in the third. He walked U.L. Washington to start the inning but got a break when he picked the Royals' shortstop off first. But Guidry still couldn't control his pitches and walked Brett. Hal McRae struck out but Otis lined a ground-rule double to left and Wathan was walked intentionally to load the bases, bringing up Aikens.
Aikens, who had been overmatched in striking out in the second, just met the ball easily and hit a soft liner over shortstop Dent's head into left for a single, scoring two runs.
Brett homered with one out in the seventh off reliever Ron Davis _ his fifth against the Yankees in playoff competition _ and the Royals wrapped it up by tagging Tom Underwood with two unearned runs in the eighth.
With two out, Porter reached first base when Watson dropped a throw from Dent and White, who had three hits, singled sharply to left. Wilson, hitless in his previous four at-bats, then doubled off the wall in left-center field to chase home the final two runs.