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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — CC Sabathia was told by Yankees manager Joe Girardi that he was done Saturday night after limiting the hot-hitting Royals to one run through seven efficient innings.
"I guess I'm an old man now," Sabathia said. "He needed to take me out and give me a rest."
Old man? More like the Sabathia of old.
Backed by homers from Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez, the former Cy Young winner who had struggled throughout April helped New York to a 5-1 victory over Kansas City, ending the Yankees' four-game losing streak and evening their three-game series.
"CC has not been a strong pitcher in April for much of his career," said Girardi, who never thought twice about pulling the big lefty after just 87 pitches. "But look at what he's done his last few starts. Hopefully he keeps rolling."
With rain approaching the entire evening, Sabathia (2-5) made quick work of the Royals, who had pounded out 12 runs on 17 hits the previous night. He allowed their lone run on six hits without a walk to win his second straight start.
Headley hit a tiebreaking three-run homer, and Rodriguez added his 10th of the season in the ninth to help the Yankees shake out of their offensive slumber.
Danny Duffy (2-3) lost his third straight start for Kansas City, allowing four runs on four hits and four walks in five innings. It was a modest improvement over the left-hander's previous two starts, when he'd been hammered for 10 runs in 4 2-3 innings by the Indians and Rangers.
"I know my teammates believe in me. I believe in me. The coaching staff believes in me," Duffy said. "I know I'm better than these results."
Both teams squandered opportunities for big innings in the third.
Duffy walked three of the first four Yankees he faced in the frame, and Carlos Beltran's sacrifice fly made it 1-0. Headley followed with a flyout to end the inning.
The Royals countered with three straight singles off Sabathia to begin their half, including a chopper that Sabathia fielded cleanly but was slow in throwing to first base. Mike Moustakas hit his own sacrifice fly before Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer struck out to end the inning.
Duffy fell into a nice rhythm after his escape, but gave up consecutive two-out singles in the fifth. After going ahead 0-2 on Headley, the Yankees' third baseman battled back to force a full count, then sent the next pitch sailing into the bullpen in left field.
"We've been grinding to score runs," Headley said. "I was able to get something I could hit."
Duffy was replaced the next inning by veteran Joe Blanton, who made his first appearance in a big league game since Sept. 3, 2013. Blanton allowed one run the final four frames.
Rain started to fall heavily in the bottom half of the fifth, when Sabathia stranded runners on first and second, before blowing out of the area after about 10 minutes.
Lightning started to flash across the sky in the seventh, but crew chief Bill Welke allowed the game to continue. Yankees relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller breezed through the last two innings to help finish the game before the storms arrived.
"That's a good team, to be able to come in here and get a win, especially after what they did to us last night," Sabathia said. "It feels good."
MORE ON A-ROD
Rodriguez has now driven in 1,991 runs, five shy of matching Barry Bonds for fifth on the career list. His home run was the 663rd of his career.
Hosmer went 0 for 4, snapping his 12-game hitting streak. ... Betances has tossed an AL-leading 21 straight innings without allowing an earned run. Miller is second with 17 2-3 innings.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (wrist tendinitis) will throw a bullpen session Monday. If all goes well, he could begin a rehab assignment Thursday.
Royals: Blanton was selected from Triple-A Omaha and Aaron Brooks optioned to the same club. To clear roster space, LHP Brian Flynn (torn shoulder muscle) went to the 60-day DL.
Yankees: LHP Chris Capuano makes his season debut. He's been on the DL with a right quad strain that he sustained covering first base in spring training.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez has never faced the Yankees at home. He won at old Yankee Stadium in 2008 and lost at their new ballpark last season, both times with other teams.