KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jason Vargas entered Wednesday night with a 1.01 ERA, the lowest in the majors among starters.
The Royals lefthander departed after four innings with a far different number after the Yankees bruised and battered him in an 11-7 victory in front of 22,899 at Kauffman Stadium.
The AL East-leading Yankees (24-13), who matched their season-high with 16 hits, have scored at least seven runs in eight of their last 13 games and 17 of 37 overall.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dellin Betances said. “Every time out you feel like we’re going to score eight runs or more. And it’s 1-9, it shows you how deep our lineup is.”
The Bombers came in leading the AL in runs per game (5.78), homers (58), OBP (.353) and slugging (.457) and did nothing to hurt those totals.
Every starter had at least one hit, with Starlin Castro’s three hits leading the way, which gave the second baseman a .351/.387/.545 slash line so far. Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez, Matt Holliday, Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks each added two hits.
“It’s been fun to watch,” said Joe Girardi, who endured plenty of frustrating nights from the dugout watching his offense flail much of the last three seasons. “They’ve hit for power, they’ve been patient. They were patient on Vargas, they made him work tonight.”
The 34-year-old Vargas (5-2), who had allowed five earned runs over 44 2/3 innings this season previously, never stood a chance, his ERA jumped to 2.03.
Vargas allowed six runs and seven hits, chased after a five-run fourth, in which he needed 49 pitches, that made it 6-0.
Hicks highlighted the inning with a three-run homer, his seventh of the season.
“We’re just picking each other up,” said Hicks, now slashing .326/.464/.616. “When one doesn’t do the job, the next guy comes up and does it. That’s how it has to be with an offense and we’ve been able to come up with big hits in big situations.
Castro had the first one Wednesday, knocking in Gardner with two outs in the first with a double off the wall in right, making it 1-0. Castro’s double with one out in the fourth snapped a streak of eight-straight retired by Vargas, sparking the five-run inning.
“The entire team feels good,” Castro said. “We didn’t chase his pitches and made him throw the ball over the plate.”
Of knocking around a pitcher who brought a 1.01 ERA into the game, Castro said: “That tells us how good we are right now. He’s been pitching really good, we made him throw the ball over the plate and that’s how we got to him.”
The Yankees tagged righthander Peter Moylan for four runs in the fifth to make it 10-2.
The only downside was righthander Giovanny Gallegos giving up three ninth-inning runs, causing Girardi, with two on and two outs, to bring on Betances to face Eric Hosmer. Betances, the closer with Aroldis Chapman injured, got Hosmer to bounce back to him to record his first save.
Michael Pineda, who came in 3-2 with a 3.27 ERA, was the latest Yankee starter to benefit from the offense.
The righthander allowed four runs (three earned) and six hits over six innings. Pineda struck out five and walked two, giving him 55 strikeouts compared to eight walks this season.
He took a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth against the Royals (16-23), who sport the AL’s worst offense, before Salvador Perez launched a two-run homer that made it 6-2.
Pineda allowed a solo shot to Whit Merrifield in the bottom of the fifth to make it 10-3, making it 10 homers allowed in 10 starts this season.
“When you see a lot of runs like that,” Pineda said, “you feel comfortable.”
A feeling many a Yankee starter is getting used to.