KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It made sense, perfect sense, that New York Yankees rookie Chase Whitley pushed all the credit toward Brian McCann after earning the first win of his big league career.
After all, the veteran catcher not only guided Whitley though a punchless Kansas City lineup, he also drove in three runs with a timely double in the third inning of what turned into a 4-2 victory over the Royals on Friday night.
“He told me a game plan before the game and we were able to execute it,” Whitley said. “Just follow whatever he has in store because that guy has everything. He does.”
McCann was equally complimentary of Ranburne’s favorite son.
“Since he’s been called up here, he’s been nothing but exceptional,” McCann noted. “He’s working the ball in and out, really understanding what he’s trying to do out there. It’s been great to catch him.”
The Royals figured they were catching a break during the four-game series by missing Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. Whitley, who turns 25 June 14th, made them wish they were facing the Japanese star.
Mixing his fastball with an effective slider and change-up, the former 15th-round draft pick allowed five hits while striking out three without a walk over seven innings. Whitley had never pitched as many as seven innings at any level before Friday night.
“Yeah, tonight’s a big night. We’re all happy for him,” McCann said. “He’s worked really hard to get here, to do this.”
Whitley (1-0) had allowed five earned runs in his first four starts, and left two of them with the lead, but had four no-decisions to show for his efforts.
Of course, McCann helped take care of that with his bases-loaded double.
“That’s a huge hit,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s a tough at-bat. He fouls off a lot of tough pitches, a change-up, a curveball, a real slow curveball, and he got a ball up in the zone and it turned into a double.”
Kansas City scored one run in the second and one in the fifth but Whitley pitched out of one-out trouble in each inning. The second inning threat ended with a ground ball double play. In the fifth, a ground out to second and a fly to right stranded a runner at second.
“They’re trying to get more than one. They’re set up to get more than one. To not let them get more than one is so crucial,” Whitley said.
Dellin Betances worked around a double by Alcides Escobar in the eighth, and David Robertson retired Salvador Perez with runners on first and second in the ninth to earn his 14th save.
Jeremy Guthrie (2-6) wound up with the loss, once again getting very little support. Perez and Lorenzo Cain drove in the Royals’ runs.
Making their only scheduled visit to Kauffman Stadium, the Yankees won their second straight on the heels of a four-game losing streak. They also established some much-needed confidence as they began a 10-game trip that will take them through Seattle and Oakland.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Brian Roberts in the second inning, and Kansas City promptly answered when Perez followed a double by Alex Gordon with his own RBI single.
New York quickly regained the lead in the third.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner led off with singles, and Guthrie grazed Mark Teixeira on the shoulder to load the bases with one out. That’s when McCann connected for his double to left, giving the Yankees what turned out to be an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
Guthrie kept the Royals in the game, retiring his final nine hitters. His weak-hitting offense even got a run back in the fifth when Cain drove in Gordon with a double.
“We just couldn’t get that big hit to come through,” the Royals’ Billy Butler said. “We were putting some good at-bats together with no results. Those days are kind of frustrating.”