KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Leave it to CC Sabathia and Derek Jeter, a couple of grizzled veterans, to give the New York Yankees an uplifting performance when they need it the most.
Jeter hit a two-run homer to break open a close game, Sabathia went eight innings for the third straight time, and the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals 6-2 on Friday night. They snapped a three-game skid while also taking a bold first step after losing closer Mariano Rivera to injury.
“We lost three in a row. We didn’t finish up the homestand the way we wanted. We had to deal with what we had to deal with yesterday. I thought it was important that we bounce back,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We cashed in four runs with two outs. It was outstanding.”
An encouraging night began with Rivera’s announcement that he plans to return from a torn ACL and meniscus damage in his right knee rather than retire, and it ended when David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to give Sabathia (4-0) his fourth straight victory.
“CC steps up when we need it,” said Jeter, who singled and scored on Mark Teixeira’s homer in the first before delivering a two-run shot of his own during a four-run seventh inning.
“He likes to be out there,” Jeter said. “He likes to finish games.”
Jeter’s homer off Bruce Chen (0-4) was his fifth of the season, a number he didn’t reach until Sept. 4 last season. He’s batting a robust .404 this year, though he brusquely dismissed any notion that he’s playing above his own expectations.
“They are very good hitters. Right now Jeter is very hot,” Chen said. “I’m not saying he’s not a good hitter, but like right now, he’s on fire and hitting the ball well.”
The Yankees had reason to celebrate when Jeff Francoeur went down swinging for the final out.
Rivera told his teammates prior to the game that he plans to have surgery to repair a torn ACL and damaged meniscus in his right knee. The injury occurred Thursday night when baseball’s career saves leader was shagging fly balls near the warning track during batting practice.
“I’m coming back. Write it down in big letters,” Rivera said. “I’m not going out like this.”
The news appeared to give the Yankees a lift, especially after dropping their third straight game Thursday night. Sabathia was sharp on the mound and the potent New York lineup finally let loose after struggling to put up runs for the better part of a week.
“It feels good. It always feels good,” Sabathia said, “especially considering everything we’ve been through over the past day.”
Jeter’s leadoff single was his fifth hit in six at-bats in the series, and Teixeira made it hurt when he pounded a 1-1 pitch into the seats overlooking the Royals’ bullpen in left field.
Kansas City answered in the bottom half of the first. Alex Gordon followed a base hit by Jarrod Dyson with an RBI double, and Francoeur’s two-out double tied the game.
The Royals couldn’t have known that’s all the offense they would muster.
Sabathia retired 12 straight after a two-out double by Alcides Escobar in the second. Eric Hosmer broke up the streak with a two-out triple in the sixth that hit the wall just over Curtis Granderson’s head — about two feet shy of clearing the center-field fence.
Francoeur grounded out to end the inning.
Sabathia also left a runner on third in the seventh, when Mike Moustakas doubled leading off and Chris Getz delivered a base hit. Escobar grounded into a double play to end that inning.
Sabathia allowed seven hits and struck out five without issuing a walk.
“I sitting over there during the course of the game, trying to figure out a better left-hander in the game today,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I couldn’t come up with one.”
Chen matched him nearly inning-for-inning until the seventh.
Cano led off with a single, but all the real damage came with two outs. Eduardo Nunez hit a go-ahead triple into the right-field corner, and Chris Stewart followed with an RBI single.
Then the big blow from Jeter, a two-run shot over the center-field wall.
Robertson finished up the game in a non-save situation. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the right-hander would likely get the first chance to save games in place of Rivera, though he did not rule out former Rays closer Rafael Soriano also pitching the ninth.
“We wanted to give him a little experience in that sense, but he also hasn’t worked in three or four days, too,” Girardi said. “You like to keep your relievers going, so we thought we would get him in there.”
Notes: The Yankees transferred RHP Michael Pineda to the 60-day DL and optioned RHP D.J. Mitchell to Triple-A. They recalled RHP Cody Eppley from the same squad and signed OF Dewayne Wise to a major league contract. … Yankees OF Nick Swisher (hamstring) took BP on the field before the game and plans to run bases Saturday. … Royals RHP Greg Holland (ribcage) will throw BP on Saturday and could leave for a rehab assignment Tuesday. … RHP Hiroki Kuroda takes the mound Saturday for New York. RHP Felipe Paulino will make his season debut for Kansas City.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)