KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A familiar feeling -- familiar the previous four games, at least -- crept into the Yankees' dugout.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran hit back-to-back singles, but Chase Headley quickly found himself down 0-and-2 to Royals starter Danny Duffy.
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A sputtering offense was poised to fizzle again.
But Headley, struggling at the plate of late like most of his teammates, turned on a 3-and-2 changeup and ripped a tiebreaking three-run homer over the leftfield wall. It was the big hit in a 5-1 victory in front of 31,871 at Kauffman Stadium that snapped the Yankees' losing streak at four.
"Obviously, it really picked up the dugout a little bit," Joe Girardi said. "It changes the feeling because we've been struggling to score runs since that first day in Tampa [Monday], and all of a sudden, we get three quick ones."
Alex Rodriguez made it 5-1 with his 10th homer, a shot to rightfield off Joe Blanton in the ninth, but at that point, the game had all but been decided.
It was hardly a breakout performance for an offense that came in having scored six runs during the four-game skid, but it was more than enough for CC Sabathia, who turned in his best outing of the season in winning for the second straight start.
Against a team that entered the day tied with Houston for the best record in the AL and had lit up Yankees pitching the night before in a 12-1 win, Sabathia (2-5, 4.67) allowed one run, six hits and no walks in seven innings, throwing 64 of 87 pitches for strikes. Sabathia, who had to pitch around a couple of miscues behind him, struck out five.
The Royals loaded the bases with none out in the third but could do no more than tie the score at 1-1 on Mike Moustakas' sacrifice fly. "Just trying to make pitches," said Sabathia, who struck out Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer to escape the jam. "It's something I wasn't able to do earlier in the season."
Of winning his last two, he said: "Hopefully I can just keep this going. I feel good."
Dellin Betances pitched a perfect eighth and Andrew Miller, with his save chance taken away by A-Rod's 664th career homer, added a perfect ninth. Sabathia and the two relievers retired the last 14 Royals batters.
The Yankees entered the fifth with one hit against Duffy (2-3, 5.87), but after Teixeira and Beltran singled, Headley -- with a .192/.241/.308 slash line in his previous eight games -- homered into the Royals' bullpen. "Obviously, we've been grinding a little bit to score runs and myself personally doing the same," he said. "I got down in the count, was able to fight my way back into it and finally got a pitch I could handle, and I put a good swing on it."
Sabathia was impressed. "That was a great at-bat," he said. "For him to hit a 3-2 [changeup], just a great at-bat. Everybody was excited."
Before fouling off a full-count slider, Headley took a 2-and-2 curveball that Duffy felt was a strike, but plate umpire John Tumpane called ball 3. "It was a clear ball," Headley said. "It was a good pitch, he got me to check-swing at it, but it was a ball."
As for the changeup, he said he wasn't looking for that specific pitch. "I was just really trying to put the ball in play, to be honest," he said. "He was a hard guy to really have a good approach against because he hadn't been throwing consistent strikes and locating the way he has in the past. But he still has that great stuff, so it's an uncomfortable at-bat. If you hang in and fight, a lot of times he'll give you one to hit, and that's what happened."