KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It made sense perfect sense that New York Yankees rookie Chase Whitley pushed all the credit toward Brian McCann after earning the first win of his big league career.
After all, the veteran catcher not only guided Whitley though a punchless Kansas City lineup, he also drove in three runs with a timely double in the third inning of what turned into a 4-2 victory over the Royals on the night of June 6.
“He told me a game plan before the game and we were able to execute it,” Whitley said. “Just follow whatever he has in store because that guy has everything. He does.”
Brian Roberts also drove in a run for the Yankees, who finally gave their young right-hander some support. Whitley (1-0) had allowed five earned runs in his first four starts, and left two of them with the lead, only for his team to saddle him with a series of no-decisions.
Of course, McCann helped take care of that with his bases-loaded double. “That’s a huge hit,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s a tough at-bat. He fouls off a lot of tough pitches, a change-up, a curveball, a real slow curveball, and he got a ball up in the zone and it turned into a double.”
Dellin Betances worked around a double by Alcides Escobar in the eighth, and David Robertson retired Salvador Perez with runners on first and second in the ninth to earn his 14th save.
Jeremy Guthrie (2-6) wound up with the loss, once again getting very little support. Perez and Lorenzo Cain drove in the Royals’ runs.
“I think I threw the ball all right except for the third inning when I gave up a couple of hits,” Guthrie said. “I had McCann down to two strikes and couldn’t finish him off. I threw a couple of pitches trying to finish him off and wasn’t able to do that.”
Making their only scheduled visit to Kauffman Stadium, the Yankees won their second straight on the heels of a four-game losing streak. They also established some much-needed confidence as they began a 10-game trip that will take them through Seattle and Oakland.
The Royals figured they were catching a break during the four-game series by missing Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched his way to a 2-1 win over the Athletics on June 5. Whitley made them wish they were facing the Japanese star.
Mixing his fastball with an effective slider and change-up, the former 15th-round draft pick allowed five hits while striking out three without a walk in the longest start of his career. Whitley had never lasted more than five innings in the big leagues.
“Yeah, tonight’s a big night. We’re all happy for him,” McCann said. “He’s worked really hard to get here, to do this.”
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead on a single by Roberts in the second inning, and Kansas City promptly answered when Perez followed a double by Alex Gordon with his own RBI single.
New York quickly regained the lead in the third.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led off with singles, and Guthrie grazed Mark Teixeira on the shoulder to load the bases with one out. That’s when McCann connected for his double to left, giving the Yankees what turned out to be an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
Guthrie kept the Royals in the game, retiring his final nine hitters. His weak-hitting offense even got a run back in the fifth when Cain drove in Gordon with a double.
Still, it was not enough for Guthrie to avoid his sixth straight losing decision and his 11th consecutive start without a win. In the last five, the veteran right-hander has received a total of three runs of support.
“We just couldn’t get that big hit to come through,” the Royals’ Billy Butler said. “We were putting some good at-bats together with no results. Those days are kind of frustrating.”
(DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer)