By Jeffrey Flanagan and Robert Falkoff
KANSAS CITY -- Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia was in desperate need of a solid outing after his previous three starts had yielded 18 runs in 17 2/3 innings. The Royals provided the perfect tonic for Sabathia as he fired 6 2/3 shutout innings in a 7-1 win on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Sabathia won his 20th career game against the Royals and lowered his career ERA against them to 3.11. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out four.
"The cutter was a lot better today," Sabathia said. "And the guys played great defense behind me. We figured out by the second inning they were coming out hacking. We just had to make some pitches on the edges and get some quick outs."
"Back in the day, he was really good," Royals catcher Salvador Perez said. "He can still do it. He keeps the ball down and works both sides of the plate really well. It was his night."
Struggling Royals right-hander Jason Hammel gave up nine hits and five runs in six innings as his ERA ballooned to 6.20.
"He did a nice job of getting two strikes on guys, but couldn't put guys away," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It was a fight for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Sanchez unloads: Sanchez put this one essentially out of reach early with a monstrous three-run homer off a Hammel fastball in the third. The ball sailed over center fielder Lorenzo Cain, over the 410-foot sign and crashed against the batter's eye. Statcast™ estimated it traveled 428 feet with an exit velocity of 108 mph. More >
"It was good to see," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "[Sanchez] can really impact a game."
"That's a pretty power-laden team over there," Yost said. "They can put the ball over the wall."
Shutting the door: Sabathia did run into a little bit of trouble in the seventh. Eric Hosmer doubled and with two out, Jorge Soler walked and Alex Gordon beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Right-hander Tyler Clippard replaced Sabathia and struck out Whit Merrifield on a high fastball to end the threat.
"We squared up CC earlier a couple of times," Yost said. "We wound up with eight hits. It wasn't a great offensive night, but it could have been OK."
The Royals challenged an eighth-inning play in which Brett Gardner's liner to right was originally ruled a trap, which would have left the Yankees with a fielder's choice and runners at first and third. The call was overturned and the catch by Jorge Bonifacio put runners at first and second instead.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees: Right-hander Michael Pineda (3-2, 3.27 ERA) will be looking to get back in the win column in the middle game of the series on Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. ET. Pineda took the loss in his last outing against the Astros despite allowing just three runs over 6 2/3 innings.
Royals: Left-hander Jason Vargas (5-1, 1.01) will take the mound for the Royals on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Vargas threw seven shutout innings against the Rays in his previous start on Thursday in a 6-0 win.