Kansas City, Mo. — A.J. Burnett hadn’t won a game in weeks. He hadn’t felt good about a start in months. And he had never experienced victory as a member of the New York Yankees when the calendar flipped to August.
The Kansas City Royals were the perfect opponent to change all that.
Burnett managed to scatter 10 singles over a shaky 52⁄3 innings Monday night, and Derek Jeter drove in three runs to help the Yankees beat Kansas City, 7-4, and finally give the right-hander something to feel good about.
“It makes you feel a part of it,” Burnett said after his first victory since June 29, a stretch of seven mostly miserable starts. “There are a lot of things to keep you not too content, but yeah, it feels good.”
Burnett (9-9) had been winless in 13 starts in August since signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal with New York, going 0-8 with a 7.18 earned-run average. His late season struggles, combined with his poor recent performances, are a big reason that manager Joe Girardi has considered dropping him from the starting rotation.
But the right-hander had allowed only four runs over 261⁄3 innings against the Royals since joining the Yankees, so it figured that Burnett would have a good chance to get back on the right side of the ledger.
“It probably feels really good,” Girardi said. “He’s thrown some games I thought we could have got him wins and we didn’t, and that’s frustrating because I think you always ask yourself as a player, ‘Could I have done a little more and maybe kept them off the scoreboard?”’
Brett Gardner added a pair of RBIs, and Mark Teixeira and pinch hitter Andruw Jones also drove in runs for the Yankees (73-46), who moved back into a tie with idle Boston for the AL East lead.
Mariano Rivera wrapped up the victory, pitching a perfect ninth inning for his 31st save.
Melky Cabrera and Billy Butler each drove in a pair of runs for the Royals, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Felipe Paulino (1-5) didn’t provide much help from the mound, allowing five runs on five walks and eight hits in just 51⁄3 innings, the erratic performance running his winless streak to six consecutive games.
“Their hitters over there make a lot of money,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “The reason they make a lot of money is they don’t miss mistakes. Paulino, every ball he got hurt on was pitches up.”
Things began ominously for Paulino, who was pulled early from his last start against Tampa Bay when his back stiffened up.
He plunked Gardner leading off the game and walked Teixeira before he escaped the inning.
Paulino wasn’t as fortunate in the second, when Gardner and Jeter delivered two-out RBI singles.
The Royals squandered two decent scoring chances early, stringing together three singles in the second without a run, then putting runners on first and second with one out before a double play ended the fourth.