KANSAS CITY -- The last time Mariano Rivera came to Kauffman Stadium, he left on the back of a cart, his ACL torn and his season over. This time, he leaves with two more saves and the Yankees with three more victories, including Sunday's 4-2 win over the Royals thanks to a pair of home runs and another terrific starting pitching performance by Hiroki Kuroda.
What it means: That the Yankees go into Monday's doubleheader in Cleveland coming off a sweep in K.C. and riding the crest of a 5-1 road trip so far.
Supporting cast: It wasn't all that much, but after the last time Kuroda pitched, the four runs the Yankees gave him must have seemed like quite a cushion. On May 7 in Denver, Kuroda pitched seven nearly flawless innings, only to lose, 2-0, because he allowed a two-run HR to Carlos Gonzalez. Sunday, taking no chances, Kuroda held the Royals to just one first-inning run, retiring 12 in a row after Jarrod Dyson's leadoff double, and scattering just three more hits until the eighth inning, when he tired and allowed a pair of doubles and another run. His finishing line (7 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 2ER, 1BB, 1K) and limiting of Girardi's need for relief pitching was exactly what the Yankees needed heading into Monday's doubleheader.
Belly to belly: Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells hit back-to-back homers in the third inning to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Cano's shot, his 10th, was a blast to right field, beyond the Royals bullpen, with Chris Stewart (single) aboard. Wells' was a line shot to left, just inside the foul pole, his ninth of the season.
Well done: Wells continues to be an incredibly productive player who will make Joe Girardi's life tougher when Curtis Granderson returns from his broken arm, possibly as early as this week. Wells added an RBI single in the fifth to his HR in the third, and stole a base. He now has four steals, second only to Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, who each have five. Wells also had a first-inning single and went 3-for-4.
Well, shut my mouth: Mariano Rivera shushed the raucous Sunday crowd at The K with his 15th save in 15 tries, working around a leadoff single by Eric Hosmer.
What's next: Flight to Cleveland tonight, followed by the dreaded makeup doubleheader tomorrow starting at 12:05 and followed, old-school style, by the second game 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first. David Phelps (1-1, 5.02) goes in the first game against RHP Justin Masterson (3-3, 2.63), but the Yankees are sending good old TBA -- probably Adam Warren, but Vidal Nuno is a possibility -- against RHP Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.70) in the second game.