WHAT IT MEANS: The Yankees improve to 20-13 on the season, and remain in first place in the American League East, a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, who are still in action in Cleveland tonight. The Yanks open a six-game homestand with a win, and have now won three of their past four after dropping three in a row in Detroit last week.
THE SKINNY: The Yankees got on the board first, in the bottom of the third inning -- after Kyle Davies had retired the first eight Yankee batters in a row, Brett Gardner hit a two-out triple into the right-center gap, and Derek Jeter drove him home with a hard single up the middle. But the Royals answered in the very next frame -- former Yankee Melky Cabrera drilled a Freddy Garcia 2-0 fastball into Monument Park to tie the game.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Yankees loaded the bases with two outs -- Gardner walked, Jeter singled and Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch. Then Alex Rodriguez delivered with a clutch single past the diving Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar, which plated two runs and gave the Yanks a 3-1 lead.
Those were the final runs of the ballgame.
QUALITY START: Garcia gave the Yankees another good outing on the mound. The 34-year-old right-hander went six-plus, giving up just one run on six hits. Garcia was lifted after facing two batters in the seventh -- Jeff Francoeur singled, followed by an Eric Hosmer walk. David Robertson came in, and eventually faced the bases loaded with one out. But Robertson struck out Escobar and Chris Getz to work out of trouble.
ROLE REVERSAL? With the Yankees leading 3-1 heading into the eighth inning, Joe Girardi called upon Joba Chamberlain, instead of Rafael Soriano. The Yankees were off on Monday, so the reason could not have been that Soriano was overworked. We'll get Girardi's explanation after the game.
At any rate, Chamberlain was outstanding, needing just nine pitches to get three outs. He K'd both Cabrera and Alex Gordon -- Gordon looked at three straight fastball strikes, the last of which hit 98 miles per hour on the radar gun.
Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth, giving up only a leadoff single to Francoeur, to notch his 13th save of the season.
JETER METER: The Yankees' captain went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, and is now 38 hits away from the historic 3,000 mark. Jeter now has eight hits in his past three games.
BREAKTHROUGH? Rodriguez entered today's game just 9-for-53 with only three RBIs in the past 14 games. But his two-run single in the fifth ended up being the game-winning hit. A-Rod finished 1-for-4 on the night.
POOR PERFORMANCES: Jorge Posada, who came in batting just .152 on the season, had another tough night, going 0-for-3, with a couple of flyouts and a strikeout. Curtis Granderson, who came in batting .283 and tied for the major league lead in home runs with the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano at 11, was 0-for-4 and struck out swinging three times.
GLOVE WORK: Nick Swisher made a diving catch in right field in the top of the fifth, with runners on first and second and two outs, and the game still tied at 1. If that ball gets past Swisher, at least one run scores on that play.
NICE TOUCH: The Bleacher Creatures extended a special tribute to Cabrera, who was making his first trip back to Yankee Stadium since he was traded following the 2009 season. The fans treated him to a "roll call" cheer, usually reserved for the home team, in the bottom of the first inning. Cabrera finished the night 1-for-4, driving in the Royals' lone run with that solo shot in the fourth, his fourth home run of the season.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Yankees and Royals will do it again on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. A.J. Burnett (4-2, 3.72) will pitch for the Yankees; Vin Mazzaro will pitch for the Royals, his first major-league start of the season. Mazzaro will be called up from Triple-A Omaha to replace the injured Bruce Chen.
Looking ahead to this weekend's series against the Boston Red Sox in the Bronx, the Yankees will go with Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia and Garcia. The Red Sox will counter with their top three starters: Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.