Royals top Yanks on Guillen's late blast

Royals top Yanks on Guillen's late blast

NEW YORK -- This time, Jose Guillen's home run was a winner.

Leading off the ninth inning, Guillen smashed an 0-2 pitch from New York closer Mariano Rivera over the left-field fence to give the Royals a 3-2 victory over the Yankees on Monday.

Stunning a crowd of 53,633 fans at sun-baked Yankee Stadium, Guillen stayed hot -- he was 9-for-16 in this four-game series -- and this time, it really counted. He had homered twice on Saturday and once on Sunday, both Kansas City losses.

"It's always fun when you win," Guillen said. "When you're losing, it's not fun. It's not been easy for us. But we won today, and it's a good thing to go home with a win."

Guillen took a called strike from Rivera, then fouled off two pitches before drilling the fourth fastball just over the barrier to gave him 11 RBIs in the series split.

"That's the last guy I want to face coming into the ninth inning," Guillen said. "I was hoping it was somebody else, but I just put a good swing on it. He threw me four cutters and I just stayed on it."

"He comes right at you. He's not going to walk you. He's just, 'It's right here -- hit it.' You get lucky sometimes."

As usual, it didn't end quietly and easily at raucous Yankee Stadium.

Closer Joakim Soria pitched the ninth. Alex Rodriguez's tapper to third base turned into an infield single. Around two outs, the Yankees loaded the bases on a walk and a hit batter, but Soria got Melky Cabrera to ground out for his 14th save.

It was a close out, to be sure. Cabrera's roller was snatched up by first baseman Mark Teahen, who shoveled the ball to Soria covering just in time.

"Yeah, Melky's a fast runner," Soria said. "I just tried to run as fast as I can."

Soria rebounded nicely from his first blown save in Saturday's wild 12-11 loss. Catcher John Buck could see the young closer was over that.

"I still felt, talking to him out on the mound, that he still had that attitude -- 'OK, let's go.' That same old attitude," Buck said. "The way he was carrying himself and the way he looked, I don't think that was even on his mind. He was focused on what he had to do."

Yasuhiko Yabuta, who relieved Ramon Ramirez to get the final out of the eighth inning, got his first Royals victory. Almost lost in the late-inning tumult was the excellent start by Royals rookie Luke Hochevar, who pitched six shutout innings before the Yankees tied the score at 2.

Mike Mussina had the Royals shut down until the seventh. Guillen cracked his eighth hit of the series, a double to center field. Mussina got a second out, Alex Gordon flying to left, but Miguel Olivo lined his next pitch into the left-field stands for a 2-0 lead.

The home run was Olivo's eighth this season.

"I hit a slow curve and I made good contact on that ball," Olivo said. "I took a good guess and hit the ball, put a good swing on it."

The Royals tried to do more damage as Buck singled and Mike Aviles doubled, his fifth hit of the series. But Mussina retired Joey Gathright to end the inning.

Sure enough, the Yankees bit back immediately against Hochevar. Leading off the seventh, Bobby Abreu doubled to left field and Rodriguez belted a home run, also to the left-field seats, and it was 2-2.

"I made what I feel were two pretty good pitches. It's going to happen," Hochevar said. "I can live with that. A-Rod's one of the best in the game."

That ended Hochevar's outing, a good one to be sure. He gave up just four hits, walked none and struck out four. Royals manager Trey Hillman figured that was the right time to take the rookie out.

"I'm not going to put him in a position to lose the game, as well as he pitched," Hillman said. "That's just common sense to me, when you're trying to build a guy's confidence."

Hochevar had matched old-timer Mussina zero for zero for six innings. In fact, at one point, Hochevar retired 14 straight batters.

His previous experience this season at Fenway Park prepared him for this game in Yankee Stadium's farewell season, he thought.

He relished the experience.

"This is the history of the history," Hochevar said.

And the Royals had escaped with a split in the series, finishing with a 2-5 trip. Olivo summed it all up for the Royals.

"Nothing is easy in this world," he said. "It's just a little harder on us."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.