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Michael Pineda, three HRs lift surging Yanks to fifth win in row

The Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury, left, is congratulated by

The Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury, left, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Credit: AP / Colin E. Braley

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Look who might not be dead after all.

The Yankees, all but written off regarding the possibility of making the playoffs after dropping consecutive games to the Astros early last week, won their fifth straight Monday night with an impressive 8-1 victory over the AL Central-leading Royals in front of 31,758 at Kauffman Stadium.

"We feel good about where we're at," said Brian McCann, who aided that feeling Sunday with a walk-off three-run homer to beat the White Sox. "We feel good about our rotation, our bullpen, our lineup."

All of the above did it Monday night. Michael Pineda was terrific for a third straight outing since returning from the disabled list and the offense continued its resurgence, getting home runs from Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Jacoby Ellsbury in a 13-hit attack.

"We got contributions from everyone up and down the lineup," said Joe Girardi, who before the game described his team as in "playoff mode."

The makeup game featured a makeshift lineup of sorts as Brett Gardner sat with a bruised right ankle and Mark Teixeira did the same with a tight left hamstring.

"I was just happy with our offense today," said Ellsbury, who hit leadoff and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a run-scoring single in a four-run seventh that accounted for career hit No. 1,000. "[James] Shields is definitely one of the better pitchers in the game and for us to get a win against him is pretty special. And Pineda pitched great."

Derek Jeter had a hit and two RBIs, Prado contributed two hits and Ichiro Suzuki had two hits and scored twice.

The second-place Yankees (68-61) stayed six back of the Orioles (who won 9-1 against Tampa) in the AL East and moved to within 2 1/2 games of the Mariners, who lost to Texas late last night, for the second wild-card spot. The Yankees start a three-game series against the Tigers, who are two games ahead of them in the wild-card hunt, in Detroit Tuesday night.

"This is a really important trip," Girardi said.

Entering the game, Yankees starters were 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA in their previous 18 games, with two of those solid outings by Pineda (3-2, 1.95 ERA).

The righthander, his fastball sitting in the 94-97-mph range according to the stadium radar gun, allowed one run, five hits and no walks with five strikeouts in 61/3 innings (lefty David Huff allowed just two hits in the final 22/3 innings).

After Mike Moustakas tied the score at 1 with a homer to lead off the third, Pineda retired 10 straight. "After the home run, I tried to get a little more aggressive," said Pineda, who won for the first time since April 16 and has allowed a combined four runs in three starts since coming off the DL. "I'm very happy with today and the team's winning. It's a good day for everybody."

Ellsbury's 11th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the ninth, made it 8-1. The Yankees made it a laugher in the seventh against Shields (12-7, 3.45), who allowed six runs and 10 hits in 62/3 innings for the Royals (72-58). "It's a game that you're going to have good streaks, hot streaks, cold streaks, you just have to keep battling," Jeter said. "We've played well the last few days but we have to continue it."

Prado's ninth homer of the season led off the critical seventh. "The energy, that's what we're looking for, and I feel like if we keep this attitude all the way to the end," Prado said, "something special might come."

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