Kansas City, Mo Ned Yost wasn’t sure whether the Kansas City Royals needed a relatively easy wire-to-wire win to finally exhale after an often-difficult start to the season.
The one thing Yost did know: He surely needed it.
“It was an extremely good game in all facets of the game,” the Royals’ manager said after a 5-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Saturday night. “It was a good day for us.”
Felipe Paulino came off the disabled list to toss six shutout innings. Billy Butler drove in three runs with a pair of well-timed doubles. Alex Gordon matched a career high with four hits, and an up-and-down bullpen kept the Yankees in check the final three innings.
“We’re getting back to playing our style of baseball now,” Yost said. “We had that little rough patch and we’re starting to swing the bats a little better now.”
Russell Martin’s long homer off Jose Mijares in the seventh inning represented the only run for the Yankees. Derek Jeter went 0 for 4 and committed an error at shortstop in the first inning, while slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira also went 0 for 4 at the plate.
“You are going to go through periods,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The key to keeping your offense consistent for me is not having a bunch of guys struggle at once. Maybe having one or two and having the other guys picking you up. That hasn’t necessarily been true.”
Paulino (1-0) retired 11 straight to start the game and did not allow a ball out of the infield until Raul Ibanez singled with one out in the fifth. Paulino gave up only four hits and walked two while striking out six in his first start of the season.
“I had my game plan,” Paulino said. “I executed all my pitches. I’m happy because at the same time, we won the game tonight.”
Hiroki Kuroda (2-4) allowed two runs in the first inning, one earned, which kept up a strange trend. Nine of the 18 runs the Yankees’ starter has given up this season have come in the first.
He wound up getting pulled after 4 1-3 shaky innings.
“I didn’t have all my pitchers. I didn’t have my command, either,” Kuroda said through a translator. “I just have to be consistent.”
The Royals capitalized when Jeter misplayed a grounder by Jarrod Dyson to lead off the game. Gordon followed with a clean single to right field, and Butler delivered a scorching RBI double down the third-base line to bring home both runs.
Kansas City added another in the fifth when Gordon singled for the third straight at-bat. He was running when Butler doubled into the right-field gap, allowing him to score from first.
“You can’t always get it done,” Butler said, “but it was good to get it done tonight.”
The Royals added on to their cushion in the sixth.
Light-hitting Chris Getz drew a leadoff walk and Alcides Escobar followed with a base hit, putting runners on the corners. Dyson’s shallow fly to left field was enough to score Getz, and Gordon’s double moments later gave Kansas City a 5-0 lead.
The way Paulino was pitching, that was more than enough.
After starting the season on the DL with a strained right forearm, Paulino came out flashing a 96 mph fastball that befuddled the Yankees. He didn’t allow a baserunner until Alex Rodriguez walked with two outs in the fourth, and Paulino didn’t allow a hit until the fifth.
After working out of that trouble, he got some help from Jeff Francoeur in the sixth.
Curtis Granderson doubled to lead off the inning, but he should have known better than to run on the Royals’ right fielder. Francoeur settled under a fly ball by A-Rod and then made a pinpoint throw to punch out Granderson tagging up for third base.
It was Francoeur’s American League-leading fifth outfield assist and the 102nd of his career. He followed up by making a sliding grab on a fly ball by Teixeira to end the inning.
“I got a text from a friend of mine after the game that says Jeff has thrown out more people than a Bourbon Street bouncer,” Yost said, “which is kind of true.”
Notes: Martin finished 3 for 4. ... Yankees OF Nick Swisher (hamstring) took batting practice and ran the bases before the game. Girardi said Swisher could play today. ... Royals RHP Greg Holland (ribcage) felt good after a 25-pitch bullpen session. He’s expected to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. ... RHP Phil Hughes will pitch the series finale today for New York. RHP Luke Hochevar gets the nod for the Royals.