It took 52 seconds for the boos to turn to cheers Monday night at Yankee Stadium — for Starlin Castro’s backhanded grab to go from a missed opportunity to the play of the game. But for a team that has had so much go right this season, it was no surprise for yet another thing to go the Yankees’ way in their 4-2 win over the Royals.
This time a close call at first base — and an eventual challenge that overturned the original call — turned the course of the game. The Yankees, who scored all their runs on home runs by Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius and Chris Carter, again survived and thrived on the power of the long ball, along with just enough pitching and defense to get them through.
The Royals trailed 3-2 with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh when Alcides Escobar hit a grounder up the middle that was backhanded by Castro. As Castro threw to first, Jorge Soler rounded third, and when Escobar was called safe and Chris Carter’s throw home was not in time, the Royals appeared to tie the score. But the Yankees challenged the call at first and it was overturned, nullifying the run.
The replay on the scoreboard and on stadium TVs made it seem as if it would be too close to overrule, but hey, when things are going this well, what’s one more?
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Carter hit his third home run of the year into the first few rows of the leftfield stands for a 4-2 lead.
The Yankees (26-16) are tied with the Brewers for the major-league lead in home runs (66), and Milwaukee has played two more games.
Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35 ERA), the beneficiary of the overturned call, continued to build his new pitching persona, one that’s grounded on consistency. He allowed two earned runs and six hits in 6 1⁄3 innings, with a walk and six strikeouts. Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances finished up with 2 2⁄3 scoreless innings, allowing only one hit.
Pineda allowed a leadoff homer by Jorge Bonifacio on his second pitch of the third inning, an 0-and-1 slider. One batter later, Whit Merrifield grounded a ball off what appeared to be Pineda’s left ankle for an infield single. Pineda looked slightly jarred but stayed in after talking a stroll off the mound. Escobar then ripped a double into the leftfield corner, which took a hard bounce off the wall and skittered by Gardner to give the Royals a 2-0 lead.
Royals lefty Jason Vargas (5-3, 2.30) — whom the Yankees shelled for six runs just last week — allowed three runs in six innings and, much like everyone else in baseball these days, struggled to keep the Yankees in the park.
Gardner hit a solo homer in the third, his ninth home run in his last 21 games, and Gregorius produced a 3-2 lead with a two-out, two-run homer in the fourth. It was Gregorius’ sixth straight hit (he finally flew out to left in the sixth) and part of a bigger trend. He came into the game .348 against lefties in 23 at-bats this year.