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Yankees 5, Royals 2: LeMahieu, Stanton homer, pitching staff makes it hold up

Several struggling Yankees provided pop and Gerrit Cole turned in an excellent day’s work.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees built on the one-run victory last night with a three-run triumph today as they defeated the Royals 5-2. The offense showed life and, as usual, Gerrit Cole and the bullpen were excellent, at last securing the team’s first series victory of July.

The sparkplug Billy McKinney walked to lead off the home first. Gleyber Torres didn’t waste any time extending his hitting streak to twelve games with a single after McKinney. With runners on first and second, Anthony Rizzo promptly grounded into a double play. Giancarlo Stanton came up clutch to pick Rizzo up with a two-out single, scoring McKinney and giving the Yankees an early lead.

Cole cruised through his first two innings on just 23 pitches and picked up three strikeouts. In the third, Nick Pratto led off the inning with a porch shot solo home run — the second Royals lefty to make use of the short right-field topography during their visit to Yankee Stadium. Cole threw a hanging knuckle curve for one of his few mistakes on the day and it was history.

He bounced back quickly to strike out the side for six total in the first three innings. Cole didn’t nibble — he attacked early and often with his fastball, forcing the Royals hitters to beat him. For the most part, they couldn’t.

The Yankees offense went to work in the third with the game tied at 1-1. In what has become an encouraging trend, Anthony Volpe showed his opposite-field pop, lining a leadoff double into the right-field corner before stealing third base. Torres had another productive at-bat, lifting a sacrifice fly to score Volpe.

Bobby Witt Jr. led off the top of the fourth with a well-placed bunt called a fair ball. It looked as though DJ LeMahieu touched it in foul territory, making the call on the field wrong, but it didn’t matter as Witt recklessly tried to advance to second; Cole threw him out by a mile.

Cole was sharp in the early stages, especially with his fastball. MJ Melendez squared up a line drive base hit to the right field corner with two outs in the fourth, but Cole stranded him to end the inning. The Royals would eventually get to Cole, who saw his first major jam occur in the fifth inning. A base hit for Edward Olivares, a walk to Pratto, and a wild pitch placed runners on the corners with nobody out. Cole got the strikeout he needed, ramping his fastball up to 99 mph to blow it by Drew Waters. Cole couldn’t get out of it unscathed though, as Maikel Garcia singled with two outs to score Olivares. The Yankees’ ace finished the fifth without further damage, the game tied 2-2 at the halfway point.

Singer settled in nicely, retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth. Cole spun a sharp top of the sixth — the ace retired the side in order to make 10 strikeouts on the day. The Yankees came out swinging in the home sixth. McKinney banged a single and Anthony Rizzo finally broke his 0-for-20 skid with a single. Credit to him for thinking outside the box; the hit came when he went all-natural at the plate with no batting gloves.

After Rizzo’s hit, the Yankees had ‘em cornered with one out in a big spot for Stanton, who waved weakly at a pitch way out of the zone for strike three. Franchy Cordero popped up to end the inning and the game remained tied at 2. Stanton would get a chance at a reprieve later on, at least.

Cole departed after 6.1 efficient innings on 99 pitches, walking only one. He allowed two earned runs and collected 10 strikeouts in yet another strong start that ended in a no-decision. Aaron Boone used a quick hook and went to Wandy Peralta to face the lefty Pratto, which makes sense given his homer earlier. Peralta made quick work of Pratto and Waters to finish the seventh.

After the stretch came to a close, LeMahieu actually signaled the presence of a pulse! He smacked a clutch homer to right-center to lead off the home seventh and give the Yankees the lead.

Rizzo and LeMahieu wouldn’t be the only scuffling Yankees to right the ship today. Tommy Kahnle got a vote of confidence when Boone gave him a shot in the eighth inning of a one-run game despite his struggles lately. He rewarded his skipper with a scoreless frame, teeing up a save for closer Clay Holmes.

Prior to Holmes’ entrance though, Stanton had an opportunity to give New York some insurance with one on and two down in the eighth. This time, the venerable slugger came through with the 391st homer of his career, breaking a tie with former Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles for 63rd all-time and making it a 5-2 ballgame.

Holmes used an extra-wide strike zone to his advantage to record two quick outs. An Olivares single and a Pratto walk put him on the ropes in earnest. Holmes struck out Waters to wrap up the win, and finally clinched a series victory for the Yankees after nearly a month without one.

Tomorrow, the Yankees go for the sweep at 1:35 EST. Two beleaguered starting pitchers go at it — Luis Severino and Jordan Lyles.

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