Kansas City, Mo. It wasn’t Alex Gordon’s three-run home run that had the New York Yankees chewing their nails.
It was Billy Butler’s solo shot one out later — the one they think should have been a double.
After Gordon and Butler both went deep in Kansas City’s four-run third inning Wednesday night, the Royals survived a harrowing ninth and held on for a 5-4 victory over the AL East leaders.
Butler’s ball appeared to strike the upper railing behind left field before bouncing back onto the field. Umpires ruled it a home run but went in to look at a review after talking to New York manager Joe Girardi.
Girardi argued again briefly when they returned and confirmed the designated hitter’s 15th home run. Replays showed the ball hitting the padding below the railing and bouncing up toward the front row of fans before coming back onto the field.
When Butler met reporters after the game, he had not seen a replay.
“I guess from the angle some guy saw, they didn’t think it was good,” he said. “But (umpires) have the final call. That’s why they make the judgment call.”
The Yankees were sure it was a double.
“We all thought it was a double,” said Girardi. “The umpires thought it was a home run. Billy Butler got his helmet on. He was prepared to go back to second. I didn’t think it was a home run. It’s not going to come back into play like that.”
About an hour after the game, Steve Palermo, the major league supervisor of umpires, was seen talking to umpires in the outfield, pointing up toward the fence.
“I was just standing over there at the end of the dugout waiting for the review,” said Butler. “I know they were over there a long time, and it took them a long time to review on that. I was just waiting for the call either way. They reviewed ity multiple times, obviously. It was their call. I didn’t see much of it.”
The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the ninth and made it 5-4 on Robinson Cano’s sacrifice fly. After a passed ball, Joakim Soria reloaded the bases by walking Nick Swisher. Then Jorge Posada, on his 40th birthday, took a called third strike to end it. The wobbly Soria got his 22nd save in 29 opportunities.
Bruce Chen (8-5) went six innings and beat the Yankees for just the second time in seven career decisions. The Royals have lost 10 of 13 games and the veteran left-hander owns all three wins.
Curtis Granderson homered in the Yankees first, his sixth in eight games. He also doubled, singled and scored twice, raising his majors-leading total to 111 runs scored. Coming into the night, his 33 home runs were two shy of Toronto’s Joe Bautista for the major league lead. Russell Martin hit a solo homer in the sixth for New York.
“They have a very good eye and they don’t swing at bad pitches,” said Chen. “I felt like I was trying to make good pitches every single pitch. It’s very exciting for us to play the Yankees. They’re a very good team.”
Bartolo Colon (8-7) took his first loss in five starts, lasting five innings and allowing five runs on seven hits, with two walks, four strikeouts and the two home runs. He dropped to 15-9 against Kansas City.
Struggling rookie Mike Moustakas had three hits for the Royals, including a leadoff double in the third. After Alcides Escobar singled, Gordon hammered Colon’s 3-2 pitch 418 feet over the fence for a three-run homer, raising his RBI count to a career-high 61.
Derek Jeter was 4-for-5 and 9-for-15 for the three-game series.
Chen went six innings and allowed three runs on seven hits, with three walks and three strikeouts. He also gave up a solo home run in the sixth to Martin.
After hitting a home run in the first and doubling and scoring in the fourth, Granderson was stopped in his third at-bat by second baseman Johnny Giavotella’s outstanding defensive play. The rookie dived to his left to snare Granderson’s hard-hit grounder and threw to Chen covering the bag, ending the inning and possibly saving a run because Jeter was on second with a two-out double.
Melky Cabrera tripled leading off the fifth and made it 5-2 when he scored on Eric Hosmer’s infield out.
NOTES: Tampa Bay’s 4-0 victory over Boston kept New York half a game ahead in the AL East. ... The Yankees planned to bring 3B Alex Rodriguez to Minnesota today, where they will begin a four-game series with the Twins. But the three-time MVP, rehabbing knee surgery, ruled himself out for being activated today after going 1-for-2 with an RBI and two walks for Triple-A Scranton. ... The Royals have been giving outfielder Mitch Maier some groundballs at third base in case they ever need an emergency starter there. ... The Royals will start Luke Hochevar (8-9) against Josh Beckett (9-5) tonight in the first of four games against the Boston Red Sox. They split four games in Boston last month. ... CC Sabathia (16-7) gets the start for the Yankees today against Brian Duensing (8-11). He’s 7-0 in his last eight starts against the Twins.