Yanks top Royals for fifth straight

Yanks top Royals for fifth straight

KANSAS CITY -- The Yankees have appeared refreshed following the All-Star break, but if Johnny Damon's explanation is to be believed, the secret to their success is that they never rested.

The rejuvenated Yankees offense couldn't be contained for yet another night, beating up on the Royals pitching staff to post a 9-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday, their 11th win in 14 games since reconvening for the second half.

"We could have sat around and drank plenty of beer, but I think most of the guys went into the break staying in shape, staying focused," Damon said. "We all knew what we had to do."

Derek Jeter had four hits, Jorge Posada and Bobby Abreu each drove in two runs, and Damon and Hideki Matsui scored twice apiece for New York in the victory, staking starter Chien-Ming Wang to an early seven-run lead.

The victory moved the Yankees to a season-high seven games over .500 at 53-46, and just as importantly, nudged the club with 4 1/2 games of their nearest playoff possibility, the American League Wild Card.

"We just need to stay the course," Damon said. "With over two months to go, if we keep playing this way, there's no reason why we shouldn't be back in the playoffs."

New York sits 7 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the division pace, and manager Joe Torre said that it's still a bit early to begin serious scoreboard watching.

"We're heading in the right direction," Torre said. "We just need to keep on keeping on, I guess you could say. You look and you see the deficit going down, and I don't want to send the wrong message. We still need to get our record where it needs to be."

Continuing a trend that saw them post at least one runner in 24 consecutive innings through one point, the Yankees had little difficulty keeping potential scoring men on the basepaths, batting around in both the first and second innings.

Kansas City pitchers issued nine walks, including a career-high three for Robinson Cano. Torre called it "the Jeter award from '96" and honored the free-swinging Cano's accomplishment by giving him the lineup card from the game.

Cano credited his consistent batting cage work with hitting coach Kevin Long, who has taken on the fairly unorthodox task of asking Cano not to swing at pitches in practice sessions, so he is prepared to similarly lay off in game action.

"Kevin and I have been working every single day," Cano said. "It's been working right now."

Long explained the tactic: "If you swing at strikes, your numbers are going to go up. I can't even remember the last time he swung at a ball out of the zone."

The Yankees had plenty to select from, as Royals pitchers threw a total of 224 pitches. Right-hander Scott Elarton was making his first start since coming off the disabled list, and the Yankees made sure it didn't last long.

New York pummeled Elarton for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, as Posada drilled a two-run single in a four-run first and Abreu drove in runs in both of the first two frames.

The continued high-octane production provided Wang with plenty of support as the right-hander logged his club-leading 11th victory, though he believed it didn't come as easily as he would have liked.

Torre believed Wang's mechanics were a bit awry and the hurler agreed that he wasn't especially comfortable, though he held Kansas City to four runs and seven hits over six innings, walking two and striking out three.

The manager suggested that the unusual set of circumstances from the first two innings affected Wang in some fashion.

"Wang is used to pitching with very little run support, and I'm not sure he was as comfortable as you would like him to be," Torre said. "He looked like he had trouble getting it together mechanically today. The first inning, he got them 1-2-3, and then it didn't look like he had command."

The Royals brought in two runs in the second on an Alex Gordon double and a groundout, then added two in the fifth on Mark Teahen's sacrifice fly and a Ross Gload single.

Still continuing in his chase to become the youngest Major League player to hit 500 career home runs, Alex Rodriguez went homerless for the second consecutive game, finishing 0-for-3. Rodriguez has 498 career home runs and leads the Majors with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs.

That, and Melky Cabrera's hitless night, were just about the only down notes for a Yankees offense that boasts nine players who are "clicking right now," as Long said.

"It's almost impossible to have nine guys going at once," Long said. "I've done this a long time and there's always going to be somebody who struggles. To have this many guys going at one time is a pretty good feeling."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.