Royals burned early by Yankees' red-hot bats

Royals burned early by Yankees' red-hot bats

KANSAS CITY -- The surging Yankees offense scored seven or more runs for the fourth straight game, battering Royals pitchers for 16 hits in an 11-7 win on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer, his seventh, while Starlin Castro had three hits and Gary Sanchez logged his third straight multi-hit game -- as the Yanks knocked out Royals starter Jason Vargas with a five-run fourth.

"The second time through, we put a bunch of good at-bats together and got to him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've put guys on base and we've hit home runs. That's a pretty good combination."

Castro laces an RBI double

The Yankees have a combined 29 hits and 18 runs through the first two games of the series. It continued a season-long trend in which the offense has generally been robust.

Vargas came into the game 5-1 with a Major League-best 1.01 ERA, but he gave up six runs and seven hits over four innings. Vargas had been unbeaten in his previous 10 home starts (1.84 ERA).

"We were patient on Vargas and made him work tonight," Girardi said.

Right-hander Michael Pineda went six-plus innings for the Yankees and gave up six hits and three earned runs. He walked two and struck out five.

"It was kind of mixed," Girardi said. "He gave up a couple of homers, but he had to sit through some long innings and sometimes that can be difficult. But I thought he was OK."

Royals catcher Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer, his eighth, and Whit Merrifield added a solo shot, his fourth.

Merrifield's solo home run

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The game-changer: Vargas was still hanging on with two out in the fourth, trailing 2-0 with two out. But with Aaron Judge and Chase Headley on base, Vargas hung a changeup to Hicks, who skied it down the left-field line near the pole. It landed fair -- Statcast™ estimated it traveled 390 feet with a 101 mph exit velocity. The shot gave the Yanks a commanding 5-0 lead. More >

Hicks' three-run homer

"[Hicks] has played really, really well," Girardi said. "That's why we continue to use him."

"Vargy, for the most, is going to give you a good five, six or seven innings, even on nights when he's not sharp," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It was just one of those nights. He was facing a hot-hitting team and they didn't miss a mistake."

Stop right there: Pineda got into a self-induced jam in the sixth when he hit Mike Moustakas with a pitch to lead off, and after one out, walked Eric Hosmer. The Royals were down 10-3 at the time with hopes of chiseling away at the lead. But Pineda got Perez to fly out to right and then struck out Jorge Soler to end the threat.

Pineda's six frames

"He has a really good changeup tonight," Hosmer said. "He's always had a good cutter, good slider."

Said Pineda: "When your team does a lot of scoring, it makes you pretty comfortable on the mound."

UPON REVIEW
The Royals successfully challenged a safe call at the plate in the fifth inning when Alex Gordon came up throwing on Sanchez's single to left with Chris Carter barreling home. The call was overturned as catcher Perez put the tag on Carter before his foot touched home plate.

Gordon nabs Carter at the plate

WHAT'S NEXT
Yankees: Left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-2, 4.19 ERA) will oppose the Royals in the final game of the series on Thursday at 8:15 p.m. ET. Montgomery has limited hitters to a .156 average with runners in scoring position through his first six starts.

Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (2-3, 3.38) will take the mound in the series finale against the Yankees at 7:15 p.m. CT. Duffy took a no-decision on Friday against the Orioles -- giving up two runs over seven innings while striking out six.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Robert Falkoff is contributor to MLB.com based in Kansas City and covered the Yankees on Wednesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.