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CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner lead Yankees past Royals

Sabathia, making his second start of the season, allowed an unearned run and three hits; Gardner hit a two-run homer in the third inning to put the Yankees ahead for good.

Brett Gardner of the Yankees celebrates his third

Brett Gardner of the Yankees celebrates his third inning two run home run against the Royals with teammate CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium on Friday. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Two veterans who unquestionably are the leaders in the Yankees’ clubhouse led on the field Friday night.

Sparked by five solid innings from CC Sabathia and another home run by Brett Gardner, the Yankees beat the Royals, 6-2, in front of 39,668 soggy fans at the Stadium.

Sabathia, 38, allowed one run, which was unearned, three hits and four walks. He struck out five and is six shy of becoming the 17th pitcher and third lefthander to reach 3,000 strikeouts.

Sabathia — who earned his 247th win, tying him with Bartolo Colon and Jack Quinn for 48th in MLB history — has allowed four hits and no earned runs in 10 innings this year.

“In his last start [Saturday], he pitched well and we obviously weren’t able to get the win for him,” Gardner said. “I think everybody kind of knows where he’s at in regards to his wins and his strikeouts and some different numbers he’s approaching.”

Numbers that Sabathia — whom Aaron Boone called “a Hall of Famer” — is aware of but not obsessed with.

“It has [been on my mind], I can’t sit here and lie. I’m just ready for it to be over with,” he said of 3,000 strikeouts. “I think it’ll be pretty cool. It will definitely be a relief so I can just go out and worry about the rest of the season and play and try to win a championship because that’s all I’m really concerned about. But with it being so close, it’s hard for it not to be right there in your head.”

Gardner, 35, whose seventh-inning grand slam beat the Red Sox on Wednesday night, hit a two-run homer off Jakob Junis in the third inning to put the Yankees (9-10) ahead for good at 2-1.

“Gardy’s our sparkplug, he’s our guy that makes us go, so to see him playing well is a good sign for us,” Sabathia said.

Junis is best known by Yankees fans for hitting Aaron Judge in the right wrist with a fastball last July 26, sending him to the disabled list with a chip fracture. Judge missed 45 games.

Mike Tauchman, who hit his first career homer Tuesday night against the Red Sox, also homered off Junis, giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead in the fifth.

Though Luis Cessa allowed a run in the sixth, it was an overall good night by the bullpen, with Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton pitching one scoreless inning each.

Sabathia looked as if he had worked out of trouble in the third, but two errors in the inning were too much to overcome. After Martin Maldonado walked, Terrance Gore laid down a bunt, and Sabathia threw low to first for an error that put runners on second and third.

Sabathia got ahead of Whit Merrifield 0-and-2 before he lifted a fly ball to short right. For some reason, third-base coach Mike Jirschele sent Maldonado, not a fast runner, and he was gunned down by Clint Frazier, whose throw brought catcher Kyle Higashioka five feet up the third-base line. But Luke Voit booted Billy Hamilton’s squibber and Adalberto Mondesi punched a single to right to give the Royals (7-13) a 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Tyler Wade singled with one out and Gardner hammered a 2-and-0 fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen for his fifth homer.

Cessa allowed back-to-back doubles to Hunter Dozier and Alex Gordon to start the sixth, making it 3-2, but the Yankees added on in the bottom half.

Judge sent a screaming liner off the rightfield wall for a double and Voit, who had extended his on-base streak to 30 games with a single in the first, drew a walk. Gleyber Torres’ slow roller to the right side went for an infield single, loading the bases.

DJ LeMahieu lined a drive toward the gap in right-center, and centerfielder Hamilton made a terrific diving catch to rob LeMahieu of an extra-base hit. Judge scored on the sacrifice fly to make it 4-2, with Voit going to third. Frazier drew a walk, with ball four going for a run-scoring passed ball and a 5-2 lead.

Higashioka led off the seventh against Brad Boxberger with a double and scored when third baseman Dozier threw wildly to first on Wade’s bunt single.

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