KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Beating what had been the hottest team in the American League for a fifth straight win would seem to remove all doubt. These New York Yankees are on a roll.
How far they'll go remains one of those late-season mysteries that make this game so beguiling. They started the night 3½ games back in the wild-card race, six games behind Baltimore in the AL East, and with two of their best hitters on the bench.
But they got a home run and three RBIs from Jacoby Ellsbury, two RBIs from Derek Jeter and solo homers from Stephen Drew and Martin Prado in the makeup game of a June 9 rainout. Add it all up and the Yanks put an 8-1 trouncing on the Kansas City Royals, who had surged into first place in the AL Central by winning 19 of their past 24.
While notching their seventh win in nine outings, everything that needed to go right for the Yanks did. Their first run was aided by a K.C. error and run No. 6 went on the board when the Yankees won an appeal in the four-run seventh.
Finally, a "W": Michael Pineda (3-2) went 6 1/3 strong innings for his first win since April 16. Pineda, who was suspended for 10 games in April and then wound up on the 60-day disabled list, had only no-decisions to show for his first two starts since returning. He gave up five hits and struck out five while not issuing a single walk. Mike Moustakas homered on a 1-1 pitch in the third for the only run off the right-hander.
James Shields (12-7), the former Tampa Bay stalwart, made his 30th career start against the Yankees and dropped to 9-16 against them. Drew had a solo home run in the fourth and Prado's leadoff shot in the seventh made it 3-1, as the first-place Royals lost two in a row for the first time since July 29. Ellsbury had a two-run homer off Francisley Bueno in the ninth.
It was 5-1 when Brian McCann lifted a fly ball into right with one out in the seventh. After the catch, Ellsbury was called out while trying to slide under the tag. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi appealed and got the call reversed.
A touch of class by K.C. fans: The Royals honored Jeter in his final appearance here as a player. Team president Dan Glass and general manager Dayton Moore presented Jeter with a $10,000 check for his charitable foundation just prior to first pitch. When Jeter grounded out in the ninth in his last at-bat in Kauffman Stadium, the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he jogged back to the dugout.
A night to remember: Ellsbury was 3-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs. His RBI single in the seventh was his 1,000th major league hit.
Up next: The Yankees open a three-game series in Detroit, hoping Brandon McCarthy (5-2) can run his personal winning streak to 4-0 vs. the Tigers. Oddly, the right-hander started 0-3 in starts against Detroit.