KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After enduring the embarrassment of failing to go deep in the Home Run Derby, and the near-constant jeering from fans of the Kansas City Royals, Robinson Cano finally hit one into the seats at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday.
It proved to be important, too.
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The two-run shot by the Yankees second baseman gave his team the lead in the third inning, and that was just about all the offense Hiroki Kuroda needed on the mound. He pitched into the eighth inning as New York beat Kansas City 4-2 to finish off a three-game sweep.
"This ballpark is big," Cano said. "I mean, this is a tough place to hit home runs."
Cano, of course, was captain of the AL squad for last year's derby in Kansas City, and had said he would choose the Royals' Billy Butler for his team. But he went back on his word, and was booed lustily by the home crowd while failing to hit a single home run himself.
The jeers continued during the All-Star game, and didn't let up when the Yankees returned to town for their only visit this season -- at least, until Cano finally went deep.
"He's just a really good hitter," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's probably the best way to say it. He's just a really good hitter."
Lest he need any advice on going deep in Kansas City, he might try asking Vernon Wells.
The Yankees outfielder homered for the second straight game on Sunday, helping to pace a New York offense that scored just enough for Kuroda (5-2) to win for the fifth time in six decisions.
He allowed only a sacrifice fly by the Royals' Alex Gordon and an RBI groundout by Alcides Escobar over 7 2/3 innings. The right-hander at one point went 15 batters without allowing a hit, and was so fired up that he argued with plate umpire Laz Diaz over a call in the eighth inning.
"I guess it was the heat of the moment," Kuroda said through a translator, without relaying exactly what he said to Diaz. "I was fired up. It's not something I would normally do."
Rivera has converted his last 29 chances against the Royals dating to Aug. 18, 1998, his longest active streak against any team. His only other blown save against them happened in 1996.
"It's amazing. He just continues to do it," Girardi said. "Anyone who wants to argue he's not the greatest closer of all time, I don't know who it is."
Ervin Santana (3-2) gave up Cano's two-run shot in the third inning, Wells' solo homer two pitches later and an RBI single by Wells in the fifth. He departed with one out in the sixth and with the Royals well on their way to their sixth loss in their last seven games.
"I didn't have my best stuff today, but I just tried to keep my team in the ballgame," he said. "Just a couple of pitches. That's how it is against the Yankees."
Santana, who hadn't lost since his season debut April 3 at the White Sox, began his career 5-1 against the boys in pinstripes. He's now 0-6 in his last nine starts against them.
The Royals struck first when Jarrod Dyson doubled leading off the game. He advanced to third on a bunt by Escobar and then scored on Gordon's sacrifice fly.
That was all they'd get off Kuroda until the eighth inning.
New York pulled ahead in the third when Chris Stewart singled and Cano pounded the first pitch he saw over the bullpen in right field. It was his sixth career homer off Santana, two more than the All-Star second baseman has had against any other pitcher.
It was especially gratifying given his history at the K.
Cano was the captain of the AL squad for last year's Home Run Derby in Kansas City, and had said he would choose Butler for his team. But he went back on his word, and was booed lustily by the Royals' home crowd while failing to hit a single home run himself.
The jeers continued during the All-Star game, and didn't let up when the Yankees returned to town for their only visit this season - at least, until Cano finally went deep.
Wells, who hit the go-ahead two-run homer on Saturday, followed with a solo shot, and then drove in Brett Gardner with a single down the third-base line in the fifth inning.
That was enough to ensure the Royals would be swept for the first time this season.
"I don't know the reasoning behind it," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "but you're just one hit away from opening up the flood gates. Sometimes that one hit in a crucial situation just relaxes everybody and all of a sudden you go on an offensive tear for a weak or 10 days. So we just wait for that to happen."
- The Yankees put INF Eduardo Nunez on the 15-day DL, selected SS Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and put 1B Mark Teixeira on the 60-day DL.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore and Hall of Famer George Brett honored Rivera prior to the game with a donation to the church where his wife, Clara, is the pastor. Rivera intends to retire after the season.
- RHP Luis Mendoza will start Monday for the Royals at the Angels. The Yankees head to Cleveland for a doubleheader with RHP David Phelps on the mound in Game 1 and LHP Vidal Nuno starting Game 2.