A-Rod hits 49th as Yanks top Royals
Solid Kennedy takes no-decision; Abreu breaks tie in seventh
KANSAS CITY -- The Yankees offense pounded out nine hits and yielded 13 baserunners. Alex Rodriguez hit another homer. Ian Kennedy worked five solid innings. Joba Chamberlain recorded six outs. Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth. It was a complete effort from many key players, an effort that had to produce a victory.
It did, as New York beat Kansas City, 3-2, on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
"We went to the bank a lot today," manager Joe Torre said. "Unless you win this game, it hurts. These are games you need to win if you expect to play next month."
The victory marked the first time since July 17 that New York scored fewer than four runs and won a game. The Yankees remained three games ahead of the Tigers in the American League Wild Card race and stayed 6 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in American League East.
"These are games that we have been at the other end a lot this year," Alex Rodriguez said.
It could have been a high-scoring affair -- both starting pitchers worked around trouble in the first few innings. Kennedy provided an early foundation with another effective start, but he had to navigate several problematic spots. He allowed two runs on five hits and has permitted just three earned runs in his first 12 Major League innings.
"You have to give a lot of credit to the kid," Torre said.
Kennedy walked the bases loaded in the first inning without allowing a run. He also worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth inning, when he coaxed a popup from Mark Teahen and a comebacker from David DeJesus.
"I was falling too far behind guys," Kennedy said. I was getting in 1-0 counts, 2-0 counts, and that is where guys are going to hurt you. Here, if you make a mistake, it is a double or a home run. I just battled."
So did the Yankees offense.
New York, which leads the Major Leagues in second-half runs, had trouble breaking through against Royals starter Gil Meche. The All-Star, who allowed 11 runs in 11 1/3 innings in two previous starts against New York this season, made several key pitches, including a strikeout of Robinson Cano on a full-count fastball with the bases loaded in the sixth.
He allowed just two runs, solo homers from Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. A -Rod's homer, his 49th this season, bumped his career total to 513 homers and moved him past Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks and into sole possession of 17th place on the all-time list.
"We didn't really get the hits when we really needed," Bobby Abreu said. "That guy pitched a pretty good game. We were just fighting over there. It was tough."
The Yankees broke through in the seventh. With the score tied at 2, Derek Jeter drove a one-out single to right field off Neal Musser.
Abreu crushed a Musser pitch off the wall in left-center field. Jeter came all the way around to score and barely beat Jason Smith's throw to the plate. The play would have been very close, but catcher John Buck couldn't corral the short hop. The blast gave New York all the cushion it needed.
Especially with Chamberlain and Rivera covering the final nine outs.
The pair allowed just two hits in the final three innings and helped New York capture its third straight victory.
Chamberlain pitched the seventh and eighth in front of several hundred fans, including his father, Harlan Chamberlain. Harlan, confined to a wheelchair because of polio, watched his son play in a Major League game for the first time.
"It's a dream come true," Harlan said.
He -- and the rest of the 27,462 fans in attendance -- watched Chamberlain regularly hit 98-100 mph with his fastball. Chamberlain said he didn't feel any different with his father in the crowd.
"It was probably a little bit easier," Chamberlain said. "We had a tight game going on and it's a situation that I want to be in. Doesn't matter who we are playing. To throw two strong innings and get the ball to Mo is the least I could do."
The rookie right-hander, only a few months removed from Class A, permitted just two singles. One was a single on a 96-mph fastball by former Nebraska teammate Alex Gordon. Chamberlain worked around the single and kept his scoreless streak going.
He has not allowed a run over his first 11 Major League innings (14 1/3 innings). Due to self-imposed team rules, Chamberlain must have a day off for every inning he pitches and will not be available until Tuesday. But that is the only difference that Torre and Rodriguez see from 1996 and a young Rivera setting up games for John Wetteland.
"I am glad that I am playing defense and not hitting, that's for sure," Rodriguez said.
And Rivera issued Friday's perfect ninth, capping a much-needed victory for the Yankees.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.