The second baseman went deep off Luke Hochevar with the bases loaded in the third inning on Sunday, and Nick Swisher followed with a solo shot two batters later, giving New York plenty of offense in a 10-4 rout of the Kansas City Royals.
Alex Rodriguez added a three-run shot in the eighth inning, helping the Yankees to a four-game split. The series began with a freak, season-ending injury to All-Star closer Mariano Rivera, but ended with the Yankees' best offensive output in a dozen games.
"Great to see that from the middle of the order," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We know what these guys are capable of doing and eventually it's going to come."
The Yankees already led on RBI singles by Raul Ibanez and Curtis Granderson when Cano came to the plate with the bases loaded in the third inning. He connected on a 2-1 pitch from Hochevar (2-3), sending the ball over the wall in right field for his second homer of the season.
|More on Yankees-Royals|
Swisher added a solo shot two batters later, and A-Rod's homer came in the eighth.
"It took a huge day by Robbie to get us back on track," Swisher said. "It's just what we needed. These guys have been doing it their entire careers. We're not stressed about it."
Phil Hughes (2-4) took advantage of the run support to go a season-high 6 2/3 innings. It was only the second time the right-hander had allowed fewer than four runs this season.
The Royals had nine hits, but couldn't put them together for a big inning.
"I kind of got into a groove after the second inning," Hughes said. "The few times there were guys in scoring position, I was able to execute my pitches and get out of jams."
Billy Butler provided an RBI double in the first, Alex Gordon added a run-scoring single in the fifth, and Humberto Quintero snapped a 0-for-18 skid with a solo homer in the seventh. Jarrod Dyson tacked on an RBI single in the ninth.
That was all the Royals could muster.
The Yankees had been having a similarly hard time scoring lately. They managed a combined 11 runs over the past five games, their worst stretch since June 2009, and were coming off a game in which Derek Jeter, Cano, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira combined to go 1 for 15 at the plate.
They didn't have much problem against Hochevar.
The Royals' former No. 1 overall draft pick was battered for the second straight start, his ERA soaring to 9.00 on the season. He was yanked after 2 1/3 innings, and has allowed 16 runs and 19 hits with four walks and a hit batter his past two starts.
"I need to get back to square one and figure it out and get things going," he said, "and start helping this club and not be putting us in a hole early in the game."
Hochevar got in trouble right from the opening pitch, giving up a leadoff single to Jeter, who reached base four times on the afternoon. But the Yankees didn't really capitalize until the third inning, when their bats finally awoke with a vengeance.
No. 9 hitter Dewayne Wise started a string of three straight base hits, and Granderson's RBI single was the 1,000th hit of his career. Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to the load the bases for Cano, who delivered his first grand slam since last September against Baltimore.
Cano has five grand slams in his past 78 games, regular and postseason combined.
"You look at his at-bats today and they were really good," Girardi said. "We know he's a little behind where we expected him to be at this time of the year, but he's not the only hitter in major-league baseball that's a little behind. He'll catch up."
Swisher, who had the Yankees' other slam this season, chased Hochevar when he sent a 1-2 pitch into the seats in right two batters later. Swisher had been out since hurting his hamstring last Sunday against Detroit, but looked just fine trotting around the bases at Kauffman Stadium.
"It was just nice to be back in there," he said.
Irving Falu provided the Royals with perhaps the only bright spot on the day.
Falu had spent more than nine years and 949 games in the minor leagues before getting his first major-league start at shortstop. He tripled in his first at-bat, and then added a single in the fifth inning, coming around to score on Gordon's base hit.
"It was great to see him and get a triple in his first major league at-bat," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "And then get another base hit, play great defense at shortstop. That was a real positive note."
- Andy Pettitte pitched five innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on eight hits Sunday for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate. Pettitte could join the major-league roster this week.
- New York is off Monday before starting a six-game homestand against Tampa Bay.
- LHP Jonathan Sanchez starts for Kansas City on Monday night against Boston.