Some numbers. You decide what they mean.
First, it’s been more than 19 years since the Royals won three straight games in the same series at Yankee Stadium. More than 19 years and counting.
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A three-run homer by Robinson Cano, the one remaining All-Star talent in an injury-depleted lineup, carried New York to a 8-1 romp on Wednesday night after the Royals had opened the four-game series with two victories.
Those numbers, at least, are indisputable.
Cano cranked a two-out drive in the third inning against Royals starter Wade Davis for his 21st homer of the season. And here, the evaluation process starts to get a little fuzzy.
“The pitch to Cano,” Davis said, “I thought was a pretty good pitch. He put a heck of a swing on it. I threw him a curveball down and away, and he somehow stayed on it and hit it to the opposite field and out of the ballpark.”
A 1-0 lead ballooned to 4-0.
Four runs were plenty for Yankees starter Ivan Nova, who improved to 4-2 by limiting the Royals to one run and five hits in eight innings. He lost his shutout on Eric Hosmer’s two-out RBI double in the eighth.
The numbers say Nova was dominant.
“He kept us off balance tonight,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain conceded, “but I felt we hit some balls pretty good. We just didn’t find any holes tonight.”
The game became a rout when Lyle Overbay hit a grand slam in the sixth. That was also against Davis, who gave up all eight runs in his five-plus innings while seeing his record fall to 4-8 and his ERA spike to 5.89.
And those numbers?
“Wade threw the ball fine,” manager Ned Yost insisted. “The numbers weren’t good, but the numbers don’t always tell the story.”
So here’s Yost telling it, starting with the three-run third inning.
“Blooper base-hit. (A hit batter),” he said. “Cano actually hit a good pitch — a curveball down and away. It was a pretty darn good pitch for a three-run homer.
“Then (Davis) threw the ball fine until the sixth inning. Ended up giving up another little blooper. Wells got the grounder (through the infield). He was throwing fine to that point. He just got a pitch up to Overbay.”
The slam came on a 3-2 pitch after Davis loaded the bases with a walk.
Davis offered a harsher self-appraisal.
“I fell behind (in the count) when I was in the stretch,” he said. “The bottom line is: I walked a guy (in one inning who scored) and hit a guy in (another) inning (who scored).
“I just fell behind and made bad pitches up in the zone.”
The loss — and this, too, is indisputable — prevented the Royals, 43-45, from climbing back to .500.
Whatever Davis’ issues, Nova delivered his second straight gem. He had an 11-strikeout complete game last Friday in a 3-2 victory over the Orioles. Against the Royals, he struck out six and walked two.
Joba Chamberlain closed out the game with a scoreless ninth inning.
The last time the Royals won three straight games at Yankee Stadium — in the same series — was June 3-5, 1994. Billy Brewer, Mark Gubicza and Kevin Appier beat Paul Gibson, Terry Mulholland and Jim Abbott.
That was the year the strike ended the season in mid-August with the Royals at 64-51. A long time ago. (Same galaxy, though.)
The Royals did win three in a row over two years — and recently: May 11-12, 2011 and May 21, 2012.
Now, after missing a chance Wednesday for three in a row, they seek to avoid a split by winning the series finale Thursday afternoon when Ervin Santana faces Andy Pettitte.
Davis’ troubles started early when he opened the the Yankees first with a walk to Brett Gardner, who went to second on Ichiro Suzuki’s single through the left side.
The runners took off on a 3-2 pitch to Cano, which forced the Royals to settle for an out at first on a grounder to second. (Spoiler alert: Cano grounded a curve to second. Remember that.)
A wild pitch permitted Gardner to score and, when catcher George Kottaras made a wild throw to Davis at the plate, Suzuki tried to score, too.
Hosmer fielded the ball and made a snap throw to Kottaras, who blocked the plate like a wall. Suzuki was out. The Yankees settled for one run.
At that point.
The game started to get away in the third after Luis Cruz led off with a single. Davis hit Gardner with one out, and Cruz went to third on Suzuki’s fly to deep center.
Up stepped Cano with a base — albeit second base — open. Yost dismissed the suggestion of pitching around the five-time All-Star.
“We’re trying to make a pitch to him,” Yost said. “The pitch that he grounded out to second (in the first inning — ahh!) was the pitch he hit for a home run.
“You’ve got to kind of take your hat off to him in that situation. He hit a good pitch.”
Even so, no second thoughts.
“Intentionally walking him in the third inning to load the bases in a one-run game doesn’t make much sense to me,” Yost said. “The fifth or sixth inning on? Maybe you think about it.”
The Royals had a chance to claw back in the fifth after loaded the bases with two outs on singles by Johnny Giavotella and Kottaras and an all-but intentional walk to Alex Gordon.
The strategy worked when Alcides Escobar hit a routine fly to left for the final out.
New York put the game away with Overbay’s slam in the sixth. Cano started that inning with a single and an steal before going to third on Vernon Wells’ pinch single through the left side.
A walk to Zoilo Almonte loaded the bases with no outs, and Overbay followed by slicing a full-count pitch over the left-field wall. That made it 8-0 and finished Davis. The Royals, too.