Yanks hammer Royals on historic day
Six players with three or more hits, including A-Rod's 500th
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez's big swing may have blasted down the doors to the exclusive 500-home run club, but it also opened the Yankees' scoring on an afternoon when there was plenty to go around.
Bobby Abreu homered and scored four runs on Saturday, while six different Yankees collected three or more hits for the first time in 64 years, framing Rodriguez's historic achievement around a 16-8 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
"On this club, we always have a lot of guys who certainly would be stars in their own right," said manager Joe Torre, whose Yankees have won five of six to move 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.
"I think that's the one thing, coming to the Yankees, that you're used to. There's no one guy who stands head and shoulders above anybody else."
Even on A-Rod's big day. Rodriguez last homered on July 25 at Kansas City, and he endured a frustrating 0-for-21 slump through one stretch of his chase for No. 500, but the impact of his personal outage was dulled significantly by the consistency of the Yankees' attack.
"This is such a strong lineup, the first to nine," said Abreu, who hit his 11th home run in the sixth inning off reliever Joel Peralta. "They all can hit, they'll be on base, they'll produce at any time."
To put it bluntly, the Yankees have proven they have the wealth to bomb through this homestand, with or without A-Rod: New York has scored 56 runs in five games since returning to Yankee Stadium, off a successful road trip to Kansas City and Baltimore.
Rodriguez's shot came on the first pitch he saw in the first inning, a three-run homer into the left-field seats off Kansas City starter Kyle Davies, who lasted just three innings and surrendered five runs in making his American League debut.
"Nobody wants to give up a homer and be part of history that way, you know?" Davies said. "But we're trying to win a ballgame and I was trying to throw a simple down-and-in [sinker]. I didn't get it down and in far enough."
Hugged by Robinson Cano -- who would later triple home a run in the inning -- and Melky Cabrera in the Yankees' dugout, Rodriguez carried on a season-long exercise of a celebratory rapid-hop movement before taking the field for the top of the second inning, earning another standing ovation from the announced crowd of 54,056.
The offensive support dulled the impact of what would progress into a shaky third Major League start for 21-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes. Making his first start at the Major League level since he exited a May 1 effort at Texas with a no-hitter intact, Hughes picked up where he left off -- at least, for two innings.
Hughes surrendered a two-run homer to David DeJesus -- the first home run Hughes had allowed all season, in the Majors or the Minors, spanning 52 2/3 innings -- as part of what quickly turned into Kansas City's six-run attack against the rookie. Hughes surrendered seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out five.
"We were on a roll and scored enough runs that it wouldn't really matter how anyone pitched, so it makes it easier," said Hughes, who missed 85 team games after suffering a strained left hamstring and then a sprained left ankle while on rehab.
"I hit a road block, it seemed. I left a lot of pitches up. There were a couple of chances I had to make some good pitches and I just didn't do it, but at the end of the day, we won the game, so everything's good."
Torre said that he believed the atmosphere of the raucous Stadium affected Hughes a bit, and while saying that he understood, the manager also expressed optimism that Hughes would be better prepared his next time around the rotation.
"I mean, you're standing out there with 54,000 people in the stands, and he hasn't pitched in a couple of months here," Torre said. "It's the anticipation and the anxiety. We all know he's probably mature beyond his years, but still, there's an emotional side of this that finally caught up with him."
In filling out his lineup card, Torre played a hunch on newcomer Wilson Betemit, inserting the switch-hitter into the lineup to take advantage of a strong but brief track record against Davies -- two homers in two at-bats.
Betemit didn't homer, but he was productive, contributing an RBI single against Davies and also a two-run single off reliever David Riske as part of a three-hit afternoon. Derek Jeter, Abreu, Rodriguez, Matsui and Cano also had three or more hits.
"All these guys, that's a great team," said Betemit, who was acquired from the Dodgers on Tuesday for reliever Scott Proctor. "When you're on a team like this, you try to do the best you can and hit the ball."
Betemit also slid hard into second base on a nifty takeout slide in the fifth inning that broke up a potential double play, staggering Mark Grudzielanek on a relay throw home that allowed Cano to slide home safely with what -- after Hughes' troubles -- became the go-ahead run.
The red-hot Cano tied a career high with four hits, doing so for the fourth time this season. Over his last 21 games, Cano is batting .482 (40-for-83), and though he credits much of his success to early mornings and afternoons spent with hitting coach Kevin Long, Torre points to Cano's improved selectivity as an underlying reason for his recent success.
"I don't want it to change," Torre said. "The thing I like about what Robbie's doing now is that he's taking pitches. Earlier this year, he was going up there with an urgency to do something and playing into the pitcher's hands. Right now, if he gets behind in the count, it doesn't seem to bother him."
After this week, the Yankees know that feeling well.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.