NEW YORK — Early power, late heat. Now that Aroldis Chapman is available in the bullpen, that’s the game plan for the New York Yankees.
Carlos Beltran hit two of New York’s five solo homers in the first three innings off an ineffective Chris Young, and Chapman allowed a run in his Yankees debut before closing out a 6-3 victory over the slumping Kansas City Royals on May 9.
“I felt good out there for being my first outing,” Chapman said through a translator. “Very excited and happy to see the fans receive me the way they did, but I was looking to stay focused and get the job done.”
Brian McCann, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks also went deep to help New York win the opener of a four-game set against the defending World Series champions.
Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer homered for the Royals, who have lost 10 of 13.
“We didn’t really deal with anything like this last year and I think this will be a good test for us to see what we’re made of,” Hosmer said.
Ivan Nova gave the last-place Yankees (12-18) a solid effort in his first start of the season, pitching in place of injured lefty CC Sabathia. Nova was pulled after 81 pitches — one out short of qualifying for a win — but New York’s fortified bullpen held Kansas City at bay.
“Maybe this gets us going,” Manager Joe Girardi said.
Chapman, a four-time All-Star with a fastball that often exceeds 100 mph, was eligible to pitch for the first time with the Yankees after serving a 29-game suspension under baseball’s new domestic violence policy. The left-hander from Cuba was obtained from Cincinnati for four prospects in December.
He entered to a warm ovation in a non-save situation with a 6-2 lead in the ninth and drew gasps from the crowd by firing his first four pitches 100-101 mph.
Chapman struck out his first two batters before pinch-hitter Paulo Orlando doubled to deep center field and scored on a sharp single by Alcides Escobar.
Lorenzo Cain bounced back to the mound for the final out.
Chapman threw seven of his 17 pitches at least 100 mph, including six that topped 101 mph.
“It’s tougher than I thought. I mean, it’s hard to see. But it was nice to get him back, get him in the mix,” said McCann, the Yankees’ catcher. “It’s a huge weapon for us.”
When winner Kirby Yates (2-0) preserved a 5-1 lead in the sixth, Girardi had an opportunity to try out his formidable new 1-2-3 combination of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman over the final three innings.
Girardi, however, stayed with Yates for a perfect seventh and went to left-hander Chasen Shreve in the eighth after Hicks added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Betances and Miller both warmed up in the bullpen during the late innings, but neither was brought into the game.
“I felt that if we could not use them, it’d be great,” Girardi said. “If we got in a situation where I felt that I needed them, I wanted to make sure they were ready.”
Phil Coke, called up May 6 from Triple-A, retired Hosmer on a deep fly with runners at the corners to end the fifth. It was his first appearance for the Yankees since Game 5 of the 2009 World Series.
Young (1-5) served up a career-high five homers in 2 2/3 innings. He has allowed 13 long balls in seven starts this season, including nine in his last three outings.
“It’s a horrible feeling, feeling like you’re letting a team down and not even giving them a chance,” Young said. “The life on the ball isn’t there for whatever reason. I don’t know why.”
(MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer)