Yankees 9, Royals 4

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Johnny Damon is hitting again, the Yankees are scoring at a pace unseen for more than seven decades and a playoff spot appears within reach.

“When you’re 14 1/2 back, you don’t feel too good,” Damon after New York extended its winning streak to five with a 9-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. “You’re in a bit more of a desperation mode. If you don’t turn things around, then this great team that’s assembled here won’t be together too much longer. We still have a lot of work to do, but it seems things are a lot funner now.”

Damon, the designated hitter Tuesday night, was 2-for-5 and is 8-for-17 over his last four games after a 1-for-21 slump.

“It’s good to get some hits,” he said. “Contributing with just walks—it cuts it with the team, because they know how important it is, but unfortunately the stat rats out there don’t think it’s too important.”

Derek Jeter had four hits for New York, which batted around in both the first and second innings.

Chien-Ming Wang (11-5) won for the eighth time in nine decisions, backed by another stellar night from New York’s offense. The Yankees have scored 63 runs in a five-game span for the first time since July 26-29, 1931, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. New York put a runner on base in 24 consecutive innings before Joel Peralta pitched a perfect eighth.

New York (53-46), a season-best seven games over .500, has won 10 of 12— against Tampa Bay, Toronto and Kansas City—and pulled within 4 1/2 games of Cleveland, the AL wild-card leader. New York stayed 7 1/2 games back of AL East-leading Boston.

“Right now, I’m looking at we’re seven games over and we’re heading in the right direction,” manager Joe Torre said. “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 we need it to be.”

On the 24th anniversary of George Brett’s famous pine tar game at Yankee Stadium, the Royals handed out T-shirts bearing the name and No. 5 of Hall of Famer George Brett—and also bearing black, tar-like smears. Brett, now a Royals vice president, was on hand for the game.

It was the 34th anniversary of the 1973 All-Star game in Kansas City—Torre and Kansas City manager Buddy Bell both played in that one, and Bobby Bonds— Barry’s father—was the MVP.

Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera were held hitless in a game that took 4 hours, 1 minute. Every starter in New York’s lineup had gotten hits in each of the previous three games, the first time the Yankees accomplished that feat in at least 50 years, according to Elias.

Rodriguez also saw his string of errorless games end at 47 when he misplayed Reggie Sanders’ grounder in the sixth inning. It had been the longest active errorless streak by a third baseman in the majors.

Wang gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings.

Scott Elarton (2-4), the second straight Royals’ starter to throw a BP-like outing, gave up seven runs and six hits in 1 2-3 innings, his ERA rising from an awful 9.17 to a putrid 10.46. He lost to the Yankees for the first time in four career decisions.

“Scotty was either out of the strike zone or right down the middle,” Bell said. “That’s really a bad combination.”

Elarton, who missed 26 games with a sprained right foot, was activated from the disabled list for Tuesday’s start.

“I’ve worked my butt off in rehab,” he said, “but the results weren’t there.”

Bobby Abreu’s sacrifice fly, Jorge Posada’s two-run single and Robinson Cano’s RBI double built a 4-0 lead in the first,

Abreu hit an RBI double in the second and scored on a single by Hideki Matsui, who came around when John Bale walked Andy Phillips with the bases loaded. Bale walked his first three batters and Royals pitchers walked nine in all, two intentionally.

Cano drew three walks, earning Torre’s praise—and a souvenir.

“They gave me the lineup card,” he said with a laugh.

But when a team is hitting well, Damon said, it can afford to be more selective at the plate.

“That’s the key. Don’t give in,” he said. “We saw over 200 pitches today, and the Royals need a long outing from (Gil) Meche tomorrow. If not, they’ve got some tired guys in their bullpen who are going to be coming in and pitching.”


Yankees RHP Phil Hughes, working his way back from ankle and left hamstring injuries, was solid in a rehab start for Triple-A Stanton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday night. Hughes went six innings, giving up two hits and striking out seven with one walk, to earn a 4-0 victory over Louisville. … Before the game, Kansas City honored broadcaster Denny Matthews, who will be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame this weekend as the 2007 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award. … Shelley Duncan didn’t get in after hitting three homers since his big league debut Friday.

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