Pettitte continues mastery of Royals as Yanks avoid sweep

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Once again, Andy Pettitte came up big when the New York Yankees needed a win.

Pettitte picked up his first victory and Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera each homered and drove in two runs, helping the New York Yankees defeat the Kansas City Royals 6-1 Thursday night and avoid a series sweep.

"Andy knows how to win big games," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't know if I would call this a big game, but you don't want to be swept at the start of an eight-game road trip."

Pettitte (1-1) held the Royals to one run and five hits in 6 2-3 innings, and is 7-0 in his past nine starts against them. He has a career record of 12-4 with a 3.06 ERA against Kansas City, which is his best earned run average against any American League club.

After throwing 31 pitches in the first inning, when the Royals managed their only run off him, Pettitte needed just 61 pitches through the next 5 2/3 innings.

"I didn't have much at all the first couple of innings," Pettitte said. "I was extremely fortunate to get through that, thank goodness. ... My command was extremely bad early on and I was just very fortunate to get away with some balls I left over the plate.

"I really just started feeling good midway through the third inning and felt like I got into a really good rhythm. ... That was good to see, hopefully I can carry this one into my next one."

Cabrera tied the game at 1 with a solo homer in the third, driving a 1-2 pitch to left off John Bale, the first left-hander the Yankees have faced this year.

The Yankees seized a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Jorge Posada, who led off the inning with a single and advanced to third on Hideki Matsui's base hit, scored when Jose Molina grounded into a double play.

Cabrera and Rodriguez each had an RBI in the fifth. Cabrera's single scored Morgan Ensberg, and Johnny Damon scored on Rodriguez's fielder's choice grounder after his own infield single.

"Everyone contributed tonight," Girardi said. "That's how you want your offfense to work."

Rodriguez and Posada added back-to-back home runs in the ninth off Hideo Nomo, who replaced Bale for his first appearance in the majors since July 15, 2005, while with Tampa Bay.

"Our team desparately needed a win today," Rodriguez said. "We're on the road. We lost two tough games. It's good to sneak one out here and go into Boston with some momentum."

Nomo, who is making a comeback at 39 and after having elbow surgery in 2006, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh. He then got through the eighth without any damage before giving up the homers to Rodriguez and Posada with two out in the ninth.

Rodriguez increased his career RBI total to 1,510, moving him one ahead of Mickey Mantle and into 45th place on the all-time list. His home runs was his 175th as a Yankee, tying whim for 19th on the Yankees all-time list.

"The good thing about passing guys like Murcer and Mantle is that I'm passing them and they're not passing me," Rodriguez said. "That means I'm still wearing pinstripes."

Bale (0-2) left after six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits with a walk while striking out three.

"John hasn't had a lot of run support," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Nomo got hit hard in his last inning of work. He said he felt fine after the eighth. He maintained his velocity."

Jose Guillen's two-out double in the first scored Mark Teahen for the Royals' only run.

The Yankees, who were 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series, went 2-for-8 on Thursday night. They are 13-for-74 with runners in scoring position in the first 10 games of the season.

Game notes
The Yankees have gone 10 games into the season without a stolen base for the first time since 1948, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. In 1948, they didn't have any until a double-steal by Phil Rizzuto and Tommy Henrich in New York's 17th game. ... Rain delayed the game twice for a total of 28 minutes. ... Royals DH Billy Butler singled in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to nine games.