KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The New York Yankees provided just enough offense with the long ball in the third inning to support the strong pitching of Hiroki Kuroda.
Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells hit home runs in the Yankees' three-run third inning and Kuroda pitched into the eighth as the Yankees beat the Kansas City Royals, 4-2, to complete a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium Sunday.
After Chris Stewart singled with one out in the third, Cano blasted his team-leading 10th homer deep to right field, erasing a 1-0 deficit. Vernon Wells followed two pitches later with a solo homer down the leftfield line, his ninth, to increase the Yankees lead to 3-1.
Kansas City had scored a first-inning run when Jarrod Dyson led off with a double, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Alex Gordon's sacrifice fly. Following Dyson's hit, Kuroda (5-2) retired the next 12 Royals batters and allowed just one baserunner past first before Elliot Johnson doubled to lead off the eighth inning.
"Kuroda commanded the ball very well," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "His fastball had sink to it. The slider was moving this way and the splitter was moving that way. He didn't make many mistakes."
"He's like the other pitchers they threw out there," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "He pitched backwards; he executed and hit spots. He threw his fastball and there was so much movement on his cutter and he's got the slider. They were working in two opposite directions. He was tough."
Kuroda beat Kansas City for the first time in his third career start against them. In 7 2/3 innings, he gave up six hits and two runs, walking one and striking out one. Kuroda has won five of his last seven starts.
"I didn't feel like I was great today," Kuroda said through team interpreter Jiwon Bang. "I was good enough today. My pitches, my slider and split, were not as I imagined. It's good to have an easy outing but you wish you could have an easier outing. This lineup is really good so I have to be careful."
"I thought he was pretty good," said Yankees catcher Chris Stewart. "He wasn't spot on, but he was throwing his two-seamer really well and getting ground ball outs. It's awesome that he wants better. Next time he wants to go out and do better. So be it."
The Yankees added a run in the fifth when Brett Gardner doubled and Wells brought him in with a two-out single down the left-field line for a 4-1 advantage. Wells was 3-for-4 in the game and has nine hits in his last 21 at-bats.
"We're trying to be consistent all year," Wells said. "Have good at-bats and do your part. We get great starting pitching and go out and score enough runs to support it."
The Royals cut the lead to 4-2 in the eighth when Johnson doubled, advanced on a fly to center, then scored on Alcides Escobar's grounder to short.
After Gordon followed with a two-out double, Kuroda was replaced by David Robertson, who retired Billy Butler to end the threat.
Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to convert his major league-leading 15th save in as many tries.
"Everything was doing what it's supposed to," Rivera said. "I had good location."
"It's amazing what he's doing," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera. "He continues to do it. He locates and gets a double play in the ninth. It's amazing what this guy's doing in his career. He's the best closer in history."
Ervin Santana (3-2) suffered his first loss since April 3, throwing 6 1/3 innings while allowing four runs on eight hits and no walks, with four strikeouts. Santana has gone at least six innings in each of his seven starts this year and has allowed just one walk over his last four starts.
"Ervin did a good job of keeping us in the game and battling back," Yost said. "But we just couldn't get anything going. Santana got hurt with three sliders. One to Cano, one to Wells and one other, but that's it."
"He has been throwing the ball really well," Wells said. "He only made a couple of mistakes. He threw me a slider (on the home run). You hope to not miss those rare opportunities when he makes a mistake. In order to win ballgames you have to take advantage of mistakes."
It was the first time the Royals have been swept in a series this season and was the second series sweep by the Yankees, who have a season-high five-game winning streak. New York has won each of its last five games against Kansas City, dating to May of last year.
"This is part of the ebb and flow of a major league season," Yost said. "You have to stay positive. It's a good group of guys and we have some veteran clubhouse presence helping our younger guys stay focused."
Notes: The Yankees are 15-0 when scoring first and 17-4 when scoring at least four runs. In 2012, the Yankees were 59-27 when scoring first and 83-27 when scoring at least four runs. ... Rivera was honored in a pre-game ceremony before the series finale at Kauffman Stadium. "It was wonderful," Rivera said. "It was amazing and I appreciate it. They made me feel like I was at home." Rivera has converted each of his last 28 save opportunities against the Royals with his last blown save against them coming Aug. 18, 1998 at Kauffman. ...Yankees and Royals pitchers have each allowed just 87 walks, tied with Seattle for second fewest in the American League behind Minnesota (78) ...DH Billy Butler's fourth-inning homer Saturday was the Royals' first coming from the cleanup spot in the lineup. The Royals were the last team to get a home run from the cleanup spot, and Royals cleanup hitters have a major league worst .290 slugging average.