KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gerrit Cole finally seems to have settled into the 2022 season.
After three straight erratic starts to begin the year, the Yankees’ ace made it two straight dominant outings Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium, blanking the Royals over six innings of a 3-0 win, the Yankees’ eighth straight.
The Yankees — who have the best record in the majors at 15-6 — have won 10 of their last 11 games, though they didn’t bludgeon the opposition this time.
“If you want to be a complete team and a really good one, you’ve got to win games at times in different ways,” Aaron Boone said. “And we’ve done that.”
Cole, whose ERA sat at 6.35 after he lasted only 1 2⁄3 innings on April 19 in Detroit, lowered it to 3.00 after allowing five hits and two walks against the Royals (7-12). He struck out six.
In his last two starts, Cole (2-0) has allowed no runs in 12 2⁄3 innings, giving up nine hits and three walks with 15 strikeouts.
“That’s what he does,” said Jose Trevino, paired with Cole a second straight game. “He’s an ace for a reason. He comes out, makes pitches when he needs to, and he did that tonight.”
Miguel Castro and Clay Holmes allowed two baserunners each but pitched out of those jams before Aroldis Chapman threw a perfect ninth for his fifth save in five tries.
It was a quiet night overall for a Yankees offense that had scored at least five runs in six straight games and reached double digits in four of the last five. The Yankees managed only eight hits, seven of which were singles. They got two hits apiece from Gleyber Torres, Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo, who departed in the fifth inning with left groin tightness.
“I’m not concerned at all,” said Gallo, who felt the tightness while taking off for second in the fourth inning. “I think I’ll be fine [Sunday]. Be ready to go. I wanted to keep playing today, but the smart move was to not make it worse.”
The Yankees, who scored in the second, third and fourth innings, hit 18 homers in the first seven games of the winning streak but went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base Saturday night. The Royals left 11 on base.
“I think that’s our strength,” Cole said. “Versatility and the ability to play tight games, the ability to boat race [blow out] people, and the ability to come back.”
Torres improved to 8-for-22 (.364) in his last eight games with a leadoff single in the second and Hicks, in a 3-for-19 slide, worked a walk. Gallo dumped a single to right — making it seven of his last eight games with a plate appearance in which he reached base at least once — to load the bases. Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but Torres scored for a 1-0 lead.
Salvador Perez scorched a grounder that Kiner-Falefa booted for an error to start the second, bringing the Yankees’ 13- game streak without an error to an end. Cole quickly retired three straight, getting Carlos Santana to fly to the track in center, striking out Hunter Dozier looking at a 96-mph fastball and getting Bobby Witt Jr. to fly to short right.
The Yankees loaded the bases again in the third. Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rizzo worked back-to-back walks, Giancarlo Stanton stung a single to center and Torres lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
With two outs in the third, Cole walked
Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi to load the bases for Salvador Perez, but he swung at a first-pitch cutter and grounded to short for the third out. “Josh [Donaldson] told me we’re just one pitch away [from getting out of it],” Cole said. “So there you go.”
Kiner-Falefa’s sacrifice fly to center made it 3-0 in the fourth.
Said Boone, “Another really good team win.”